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.