Tag Archives: Lenin

The History of the Soviets

By Anton

The word ‘soviet’ is Russian for ‘council’, and these originated during the 1905 revolution in Russia. In 1905, the Russo-Japanese War increased the strain on Russian industrial production, the workers began to strike and rebel. They represented an autonomous workers movement, one that broke free from the government’s control over trade unions. Soviets sprang up throughout the industrial centers of Russia, usually organized on the factory level. The soviets disappeared after the Revolution of 1905, but re-emerged under Socialist leadership during the Revolution of 1917.

After the toppling of the tsar from power, soviets were once again organised under the provisional government to almost keep things together until the constituent assembly was elected.

At the beginning of the February Revolution of 1917, these soviets were under control of the Socialist-Revolutionaries, and even the Mensheviks had a larger share of the elected representatives than the Bolsheviks. But as World War I continued, the Russian army met defeat after defeat, and the provisional government proved inadequate at establishing industrial peace, the Bolsheviks began to grow in support. By degrees, the Bolsheviks dominated with a leadership which demanded “all power to the soviets.”

The Bolsheviks promised the proletariat a state run by workers’ councils to overthrow the bourgeoisie’s main political body – the Provisional Government. In October 1917 (this actually happened in November, but the Julian calendar that was used in Russia at the time didn’t account for leap years, so was behind everyone who used the georgian calendar), the Bolsheviks overthrew the provisional government, giving all power to the Soviets. It is important to note that the Soviets were heavily dominated by The Bolsheviks, which meant the Bolsheviks had the support of the vast majority of the proletariat.

Organisation

With village and factory soviets as a base, there arose a vast pyramid of district, cantonal, county and regional soviets, each with its executive soviet. Over and above these stood the “All-Russian Soviet Congress,” which appointed an “All-Russian Central Executive Committee” of no more than 200 members, which in turn chooses the “Soviet of People’s Commissaries” — the Ministry. Beginning with a minimum of three and maximum of 50 members for smaller communities, the maximum for town soviets was fixed at 1,000 members. The soviet system was seen as an alternative to parliamentary systems for administering republican governments. The deputies were accountable and were able to be recalled by those who elected them.

John Reed (author of ‘Ten days that shook the world’) wrote:
“Until February 1918 anybody could vote for delegates to the Soviets. Even had the bourgeoisie organised and demanded representation in the Soviets, they would have been given it. For example, during the regime of the Provisional Government there was bourgeois representation in the Petrograd Soviet – a delegate of the Union of Professional Men which comprised doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc”.

Leon Trotsky wrote in Terrorism and Communism (1920) that “In Petrograd, in November 1917, we also elected a Commune (Town Council) on the basis of the most “democratic” voting, without limitations for the bourgeoisie. These elections, being boycotted by the bourgeoisie parties, gave us a crushing majority. The “democratically” elected Council voluntarily submitted to the Petrograd Soviet…the Soviet Government placed no obstacle in the way of the bourgeois parties; and if the Cadets, the SRs and the Mensheviks, who had their press which was openly calling for the overthrow of the Soviet Government, boycotted the elections, it was only because at that time they still hoped soon to make an end of us with the help of armed force…If the Petrograd bourgeoisie had not boycotted the municipal elections, its representatives would have entered the Petrograd Council. They would have remained there up to the first Social Revolutionary and Cadet rising, after which…they would probably have been arrested if they did not leave the Council in good time, as at a certain moment did the bourgeois members of the Paris Commune.”

Unfortunately, due to the majority of parties support for the counter revolution, all opposition parties had to be banned. The Left SRs and Left internationalist Mensheviks were allowed to run for the soviets, and many of these people later joined the Bolsheviks, in fact the left SRs entered a coalition with the Bolsheviks from the start of Soviet rule. The ban on opposition parties, as well as general poverty due to a world war, a civil war and the fact that 14 foreign armies had invaded, ultimately lead to the Thermidorian reaction taking over the Bolshevik party, and Stalin and his bureaucratic clique ruled with an iron fist, crushing all autonomous workers organisations.

Capitalism is in a crisis, and the light at the end of a tunnel is an oncoming train. We must seize control of our workplaces, public places and town halls and turn them into forums to decide our collective future. Our workplaces must no longer belong to the few, but to the people who work there; most importantly, we should fight to get representatives of the proletariat into parliament, to increase class consciousness and to gain concessions from the bourgeoise; we must form a SPD-like mass party and form militias. It is only when the majority of the proletariat is class conscious that we can topple the bourgeois state and form soviets and workers committees, because the fruits of our labour should belong to us, not to a small elite.

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Marxism isn’t utopian

This article is from Critical Proletariat, a site which we at the underground hope to be working with in the future. I strongly recommend that you go to the site if you enjoy reading the underground.

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By James O. Gibson

As you already know from my previous posts, I think that combating the criticisms of socialism will be a crucial part of building any anti-capitalist movement in our world today. The opponents of socialism will often criticize its practicality, sometimes even branding it as utopian. What these people don’t understand is that Marxism sits very far away from utopianism, Karl Marx was strongly against utopianism. In many respects, Marx was a realist with a very scientific way of approaching the problems that he diagnosed, however there was one thing that made Marx stand out among other thinkers of the time. Karl Marx was open about his passions in regards to class struggle and socialism, and was always transparent about the fact that his passions would influence his work. The critical thinking applied by Marx went far beyond his critique of capitalism, but became a tool of diagnosis for his own analytic frameworks.

If anything, neoliberalism is much more utopian than Marxism ever was, as it relies on the concept of a market equilibrium meeting the social needs of the people. Marx saw that this equilibrium would be unlikely and it almost certainly wouldn’t meet the needs of the majority, as an equilibrium relies of absence of external factors. As we know, our economy is rife with these external factors. Marx saw that within capitalism there are a variety of contradictions, and eventually these contradictions result in crisis. Marxism is more about the critique of capitalism than it is the establishment of a socialist state. That said, his criticisms of capitalism helped create the need for the creation of a socialist movement, and Marx spent a good portion of time in Britain as a journalist trying to raise support for such issues.

Marx recognized the concept that people wouldn’t always act in ways that were intended in a certain system, he also understood that not everybody was a complete rational actor. He draws to phenomena such as fetishism to explain the desires and misconceptions that lead people to make decisions that may not be entirely rational on an underlying level. In a market economy, not everything is as it seems. In Marxism, there is this underlying idea that the market is a mechanic used to exploit- but most working people hadn’t recognized this. Aside from fetishism, Marx was also focused (arguably more greatly) on the flaws of the endless desire to accumulate wealth. Infinite growth can’t be supported in a world with a limited amount of resources and so on.

Understandably, there are breeds of socialism that encourage a certain flare of utopianism, however for the most part – socialism and Marxism are simply the desires to give the working people more equality and empowerment than the current capitalist system gives them. Personally, I recognize the fact that within the socialist system there will be bad eggs who are corrupt and want to abuse the system – however the socialist cause would be to eliminate these counter-revolutionaries. In the period after the Russian revolution, there was a huge divide among the factions involved – an internal dispute that ended with Joseph Stalin succeeding to General Secretary after Lenin’s death. Stalin then conducted a mass-industrialization of the country and implemented policies that created an entirely new ruling class in Russia. It was a failed revolution, but not a failure of socialism.

The state

By Reece Lawton

I will be making extensive use of Lenin’s work ‘The State and Revolution’, as it is one of the best works concerning the nature of the state.

To all libertarians, right or left wing, the state is an evil, as it is authority. What’s more, it is not just authority: it is the supreme authority. The state has ‘special bodies of armed men’ (as Lenin put it) at its disposal, to enforce obedience. The state, above all else, limits liberty, so it must be abolished once and for all, in one fell swoop. In this text, I hope to explain what the state is, and what socialists must do following the socialist revolution. This text is also an attack against all of the ideologies that claim to be libertarian, and to expose them as idealistic.

The State

The state is a tool of the ruling class to oppress the other classes. In capitalism, there are two main classes: the proletariat and the bourgeoisie (well, there is the petit bourgeoisie, but they’re irrelevant and their numbers are shrinking). The bourgeoisie uses the state and it’s instruments (police, army, etcetera) to oppress and exploit the proletariat; the bourgeoisie is the ruling class, the proletariat is the exploited class. The interests of the supra classes conflict- the bourgeoisie wants to exploit the proletariat as much as possible, whereas the proletariat’s interests are to seize the means of production for itself, abolish the bourgeois state and become the ruling class, thus ending it’s exploitation.

What’s stopping the proletariat from seizing power? First and foremost, class consciousness, but let’s say that every proletarian was aware that they would be better off without the bourgeoisie, and that they were willing to revolt against their bourgeois masters. The main obstacle then would be the state. The police, the army, the air force, drones, missiles, etcetera. The state is a tool for one class to oppress and exploit another-

“A standing army and police are the chief instruments of state power.” (Lenin).

“The ancient and feudal states were organs for the exploitation of the slaves and serfs; likewise, “the modern representative state is an instrument of exploitation of wage-labor by capital.” (Kautsky)

Anarcho-Capitalists:

Anarcho-capitalists advocate the abolishment of the state, but insist on keeping capitalism (try to suppress your laughter!). The state no longer exists, people get to keep what they earn and no person has to pay taxes ever again! It’s a capitalists dream!

Or is it?

If this is the best form of capitalism, why have the capitlaists not abolished the state and built up monopolies? Imagine the aforementioned situation of there being no state, but capitalism still thrives.

Say there arises the situation where international trade is wanted. Quickly they discover that a group is needed which will represents the national trade-interrests and will ensure a trade-advantage for it’s members.
Libertarians will say that there is nothing wrong with that. Still, it is the first step towards a new state!
The trade-organisation won’t work for free in a capitalist world and so they will begin to demand pay.
Contribution will be asked with it’s members, what will mean that non-members will receive no benefit. We then stand at a situation where benefitted collegue’s are providing unfair competition.
Again, Libertarians will argue that it is not unfair and that traders and entrepeneurs are free to join the organisation.

So, the non-members are more or less forced to become a member, if they want to stay in business. Once a member, they too will have to pay contribution-fee’s, which will rise and rise because it is cheaper to represent a smaller group, than it is representing a larger group. The represeting organisation will have to grow to be able to cope with the ever growing expectations of it’s members.

Then we arive at the inevitable point where the members discover that not only they, but also the civilians benefit of the organisations actions. Now two things can happen, since the members will want to get back the costs of the contributions through the civilians. They will they raise prices (an obscure version of taxes), or they all will decide to directly charge the civilians. In other words, taxes.

And so we arive at the current situation where all civilians and traders/entrepeneurs are forced to pay a representing group. What has actually changed? Terminology. “Taxes” becomes “contribution” and “the state” becomes “the representation” or “the organisation”.

So Libertarian ideas revolving around their version of a free market are a paradoxal idea and will never work.

Now that we have exposed right wing libertarianism as the moronic ‘theory’ that it is, we shall move onto left wing libertarianism (or anarchism).

Anarchism

The anarchists propose the State’s immediate abolishment, overnight; we Marxists counter propose that such idealism is pragmatically impossible, because the proletariat would need to crush the bourgeois resistance through a mechanism, and that is the state. Only a fool would say that the bourgeosie would not try to regain its power, and only a fool would say that we do not need an army to defeat the reaction! Anarchists present Makhno and his peasant army as a shining example of how anarchism can defeat the counter revolution, but upon analysing Makhno’s anarchism falls apart. Makhno’s army was a tool to oppress the bourgeoisie, was it not? And the councils set up under Makhno served the peasantry, a class, in it’s conquest against the bourgeoisie! I say that this constitutes a state, and also that Makhno is a reactionary. Why? Makhno’s army was not made up of proletarians and oppressed peasants like the red army was- Makhno’s army was made up of Kulaks, who owned horses and had been exploiting peasants for centuries! Upon analysis, Makhno is revealed to be a petit bourgeois nationalist.

Were the State immediately abolished, without the “conditions leading to the arising of the State” being abolished as well, a new State would appear, and the socialist revolution would have been for naught.

What should we do?

In the event of a socialist revolution the proletariat through the dictatorship of the proletariat must establish a proletarian State (per the 1871 Paris Commune model), then suppress the dissenting bourgeoisie. The proletariat must use the state ruthlessly to suppress the reaction, crushing all dissent towards the new rule of the proletariat. For the proletariat, this state will be one of democracy. Soviets and workers councils will take the places of parliament and bosses- i.e. the proletariat will have total political and economical control.

“This shows more clearly than anything else the turn from bourgeois to proletarian democracy, from the democracy of the oppressors to that of the oppressed classes, from the state as a “special force” for the suppression of a particular class to the suppression of the oppressors by the general force of the majority of the people–the workers and the peasants.” (Lenin)

For the bourgeoisie this new state must be one of terror, which they live in fear in of, it must be the most brutal state to have ever existed. The proletariat must create bodies of armed men for the sole purpose of expropriating and crushing the bourgeoise, until they are no longer a class, that is to say, there are no more bourgeois.

In achieving the withering away of the State as its institutions begin to “lose their political character”. Once the proletariat has no bourgeois left to oppress, the state becomes a burden, and the proletariat abolishes itself as a class, thus propelling humanity into communism, ending the class antagonisms and the state, giving people complete liberty and equality to live how one wants.

“The proletariat seizes from state power and turns the means of production into state property to begin with. But thereby it abolishes itself as the proletariat, abolishes all class distinctions and class antagonisms, and abolishes also the state as state. Society thus far, operating amid class antagonisms, needed the state, that is, an organization of the particular exploiting class, for the maintenance of its external conditions of production, and, therefore, especially, for the purpose of forcibly keeping the exploited class in the conditions of oppression determined by the given mode of production (slavery, serfdom or bondage, wage-labor). The state was the official representative of society as a whole, its concentration in a visible corporation. But it was this only insofar as it was the state of that class which itself represented, for its own time, society as a whole: in ancient times, the state of slave-owning citizens; in the Middle Ages, of the feudal nobility; in our own time, of the bourgeoisie. When at last it becomes the real representative of the whole of society, it renders itself unnecessary. As soon as there is no longer any social class to be held in subjection, as soon as class rule, and the individual struggle for existence based upon the present anarchy in production, with the collisions and excesses arising from this struggle, are removed, nothing more remains to be held in subjection — nothing necessitating a special coercive force, a state. The first act by which the state really comes forward as the representative of the whole of society — the taking possession of the means of production in the name of society — is also its last independent act as a state. State interference in social relations becomes, in one domain after another, superfluous, and then dies down of itself. The government of persons is replaced by the administration of things, and by the conduct of processes of production. The state is not ‘abolished’. It withers away. This gives the measure of the value of the phrase ‘a free people’s state’, both as to its justifiable use for a long time from an agitational point of view, and as to its ultimate scientific insufficiency; and also of the so-called anarchists’ demand that the state be abolished overnight.” (Herr Eugen Duhring’s Revolution in Science [Anti-Duhring], pp.301-03, third German edition.)

Edit: To be frank, this is poor. There are some parts where I should have written a lot more, and other parts where I resorted to straw men. I plan to update it later.

The role of the party

By Reece Lawton

The idea of the vanguard party invokes hatred towards Lenin among many of the libertarian leftists. A small group of intellectuals to take over in a coup d’état and guide the masses to socialism via a one party dictatorship! Does this sound like Marxism, or the self emancipation of the working class? The answer is no, no, and a hundred times no! I ask you to find one example of Lenin using this term. Lenin, no matter what the anarchists and council communists like to say, was not a blanquist.

Lenin’s idea of a party was one which was based of the German ‘social democratic party’;I say based, as it had to be adapted to the conditions of tsarist Russia. Despite the accusations of Kautsky in his late work ‘social democracy vs communism’, the October revolution was planned by the ‘All Russian congress of soviets’ and ratified by the 2nd ‘All Russian congress of soviets’. These soviets were ran by workers, and the men that overthrew the bourgeois state of Kerensky were, mainly, red guards, the most militant of workers.

The party Lenin had in mind was a party of the most class conscious workers and revolutionaries to educate the proletariat so they achieve class consciousness, that is to say realise the exploitation inherent in capitalism and see that the bourgeoisie are about as much use to society as a parasite is to the human body.

A class conscious proletariat will undoubtedly rise up and ‘lose their chains’, organising this new society via democratic organs under the control of the workers (soviets). But, to quote Marx, the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes.

Lenin outlined what was required so the dictatorship of the proletariat, which is a dictatorship in the sense that the proletariat is the ruiling class, rather than the small, exploitative minority of bourgeois that are the ruiling class in capitalism.

i) Free and democratic elections with right of recall of all officials.

ii) No official to receive a higher wage than a skilled worker.

iii) No standing army but the armed people.

iv) Gradually, all the tasks of running society to be done by everybody in turn (when everybody is a bureaucrat nobody is a bureaucrat).

So the party will not substitute itself in the place of the proletariat, the state will be controlled democratically by the workers. The party will radicalise the workers by making them class conscious and by organising the proletariat along revolutionary lines.

I detest the ‘marxist-leninists’ who cry out for a vanguard party to ‘lead the workers’. What a reactionary view! This implies that the proletariat cannot lead itself, and implies total lack of democracy. The proletariat shall elect it’s delegates and representatives, and will certainly not have a vanguard party enforced upon it!

Essentially, the party is the all-important spark to light the fire of proletarian revolution, a midwife to class consciousness. It will represent the most radical sections of the proletariat, as it will be made up of them.

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What anarchism is (and what it is not)

By Anton

Anarchism has many enemies, left and right, whom spread lies against it. I hope to tell you what anarchism is, and what it isn’t. Let us start by debunking some of these lies.
Your employer, your boss, your politicians will not tell you the truth, as anarchism would make them lose their power, and stop them exploiting and leeching off the proletariat.  

So let us respond to the criticisms from the left, as the right intentionally lie to discredit anarchism and to keep their power. Marx and Engels said anarchism would come from socialism, but their adherents  denounce it as disorder and chaos. Even the leninists, who denounce anarchists as reactionaries appear to ignore Lenin, who also claimed if one was to follow Bolshevism, we would get anarchy. So what is anarchism not?
Anarchism is not bombs, disorder and chaos;
It is not robbery and murder;
It is not every man for himself;
It is not a return to barbarianism. 
Anarchism is the opposite of that. 
Anarchism means no one enslave you, rob you, or impose upon you;
It means you are free to do what you want, and not compelled to do what you don’t want;
It means you should have the chance to choose how you want to live without anyone else interfering;
It means that the next fellow should have the same freedom as you, that everyone should have the same rights and liberties;
It means that there should be no monopoly, no oppression, or taking advantage of your fellow man. 

To sum up anarchism, it is a condition or society where all men and women are free, where all equally enjoy the benefits of a sensible and ordered life. 

The 24th of January will mark the anniversary of the death of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin

By George Volkov

The 24th of January will mark the anniversary of the death of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin.
Nearly a century has passed since Lenin passed away, at the early age of 53, due to a four strokes, and 2 gunshot wounds, that were left inside his body because it would be more risk to him than to take them out. Now, no matter what you think of Lenin, you can agree with me that it took a lot to bring him down.
After leading the Bolshevik party and Soviets (workers councils) to seize power from the corrupt, rich Kerensky, Lenin was elected as the chairman of the people’s council of commissars, a name thought of by Trotsky, to distance itself from the “bourgeois” terms ‘minister’ and ‘cabinet’.
Due to the dire state Russia was in, after world war one, Lenin had to sign the treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Germany in march. Russia could not carry on the war, it was physically impossible and would destroy the country. If you think Versailles was harsh, look at these figures:
A quarter of the Russian Empire’s population
A quarter of its industry
Nine-tenths of its coal mines
Had to pay 6 billion marks

And yet the Germans were enraged at the ‘harsh’ terms of Versailles.
Lenin stayed true to his slogan the slogan that started the revolution:
Peace, land and bread, and you can’t say that for most politicians.

Some may say Lenin was brutal, some a tyrant, I myself see Lenin as a man who was stubborn in his politics, and relentless in his attacks on his opponents. Some may claim Lenin was like Stalin, but Lenin argues with those who disagreed with him, what did Stalin do? Some socialists frown upon the breaking up of the constituent assembly. But we’re the candidates accountable and recallable like the soviets?

Due to the civil war in Russian, and the 14 invading foreign powers, Lenin had to enact harsh policies- War Communism. This lead to much opposition from the left, and on the 30th August.
The Red army did gain widespread support among the population. The charisma of its leader, Leon Trotsky, was a big reason, as Trotsky was an outstanding orator and tactician. The Bolsheviks had given the peasants the land they had worked on all their lives, whilst being oppressed by the landlords. The white army, or armies, as they were just loosely organised anti-Bolsheviks, killed Bolsheviks in the towns they conquered, took from peasants and were generally hostile to the population.

Lenin was, and will remain, a man of great controversy. Some men see him as a brilliant theoretician, leader and politician, others as a brute, a tyrant and a dictator. I do not subscribe to the cult of personality around Lenin, as that was fostered by the Stalinists. On the contrary, I will constantly criticise and try to improve the ideas and actions of Lenin. As Lenin updated the ideas of Marx for the 20th century, we must update Lenin’s ideas for the 21st century.
For the meanwhile, Lenin’s ideas and actions are debated on by the left and right alike, and will continue to be, as men do, and always will have different opinions.
I shall leave you with this quote:

“Through the ages of world history thousands of leaders and scholars appeared who spoke eloquent words, but these remained but words. You, Lenin, were an exception. You not only spoke and taught us, but translated your words into deeds.”
Sun Yat-Sen

The British Left

By George Volkov

The left in Britain numbers at approximately 10,000 people, with the largest “communist party”, the Communist party of Britain, being completely reformist, and thus, disregarding that famous last paragraph in the communist manifesto- “They (Communists) openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.”.

The largest revolutionary party (SWP) numbers at about 800, so is too small to have any effect. The fact we have so many communist parties and organisations, may lead people to believe that Marxism is booming in Britain, they couldn’t be further from the truth. Parties split to form new parties, creating more tiny parties. The British left needs to unite to form a single Marxist party, ran on democratic centralism, which is the practice in which everything can be debated on, but once one strategy or theory gains the majority vote, that line has to be followed by the whole party- “freedom of discussion, unity of action.”- Lenin

Since this party would be made up of different tendencies- Marxists, Trotskyists, Marxist-Leninists, Anarcho-communists etc. it would allow us to break away from the dogmatism that has been holding us back for years, even decades. This would be akin to the popular front that gained power in Spain, 1936, but without being dominated by one party. By grouping together their efforts, the communists could easily double their numbers, just by enlightening a friend.
The left in Britain is weak, but like a pile of sticks, it will be stronger united. Break away from dogmatism and sectarianism. Marx and Engels wrote:
“ Proletarians of all lands unite” – shouldn’t that apply to their followers too?