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In 1917 Vladmir Lenin introduced a new slogan to the people of Russia, “Power to the Soviets”. These words instill such passion in regular, ordinary people that they were inspired to stand up for themselves against a tyrannical system. Before dissecting what this means as a slogan, it’s history must be shared. According to Lenin, when this slogan was unveiled, the power was shared, voluntarily, between the Soviets and the Provisional Government. The Soviets were “delegations from the mass of the free”, this meant that they weren’t susceptible to corruption.(Lenin, 62) Obviously, the next step in their revolution is transfer the political power to the Soviets, to the people. So, they draft a slogan that can supply power to this movement, and it spread like wildfire. Sadly, it didn’t really work, more on that later.
“Power to the Soviets!” What does this mean? The answer can’t be summed up simply, but Lenin delivers the message spectacularly:
“Power to the Soviets means the complete transfer of the country’s administration and economic control into the hands of the workers and peasants, to whom nobody would dare offer resistance and who through practice, through their own experience, would soon learn how to distribute the lands, products, and grain properly”(Lenin, 112)
Lenin captures the idea beautifully, and it sounds eerily similar to a utopia. He goes on to describe a world where they would give “land to peasants and full power to local peasant committees.”(Lenin, 112) A world where peasants, the proletariat, are no longer at the bottom, but rather on an even playing field, along with everyone else.
Lenin understood that the working class learns from experience, especially the experience of adversity. The only way a revolution, which is still in it’s early stages with a small dedicated group of supporters, can becoming a raging fire across a country is by obtaining the favor of the masses. How do you do this? Participate in day to day struggles with them, show that you are amongst them, push slogans and ideology onto them in the face of adversity, and by simply explaining and educating them that there is need for reform if they want to improve their situation. Lenin realized that coming to far from the left could potentially scare people, who could be revolutionaries, away from their cause. He knew that standing on the street corner and shouting for civil war and revolutions would only push people away, so he created a slogan that is easily comprehensible to all.
To anyone who actually carries knowledge on the Russian revolution they are aware that this is the central slogan of Lenin and other revolutionaries. But many are confused by it’s meaning. Does it mean: civil war? An attempt by the bolsheviks to claim total power? Lenin’s mission to establish himself as supreme dictator? No, none of those. Contrary to popular belief(and the general impression you get from history) Lenin and the Bolsheviks craved a peaceful revolution. As mentioned above, the only method to induce this situation is to control the will of the masses. This was the real intent of the slogan.
According to Lenin, two cores of a revolution are theory and practice. Revolutionary theory supplies revolutionaries with confidence, knowledge, and the comprehension that you are strong, your will matters. While revolutionary practice is the ability to discern which direction the classes are moving and will move, it also allows revolutionaries to act on their impulses tht theory provides. For without theory, practice is just action without thought. Which is, arguably, more destructive than thought without action. It was Lenin who declared “Without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement!”
Lenin changed the face of socialism and marxism he transformed himself into the voice of an ideology, and of course when you do that people are going to have some disagreements with you, just as you will with them. Anyways, these critiques of Lenin’s work and Lenin’s critique of others’ provide a certain insight into their minds, because rather than having them spew out solely their thoughts onto paper they are building onto, or taking away from, another idea, adding their own personal twist to it. It really reveals certain aspects that would have otherwise been overlooked. For example, in Lenin’s critique of Karl Kautsky’s ultra-imperialism which is a theoretical stage that arrives after capitalism runs it’s course. Basically, ultra imperialism means that certain superpowers come together to form a federation under one state’s hegemony. Kautsky claims that this stage would only arrive after great adversity or war. Lenin, in his reputable book “Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism” responds to this idea by asking:
“what means other than war could there be under capitalism to overcome the disparity between the development of productive forces and the accumulation of capital on the one side, and the division of colonies and spheres of influence for finance capital on the other?”
This reinforces my claim above that Lenin desired a revolution through an entirely peaceful method. He despises capitalism because it inevitably leads to war! He strives to comprehend a better system, one that places everyone on equal pedestals, one that doesn’t guarantee bloodshed.
Of course, Lenin was nowhere near perfect, and he had his own works critiqued. One of the more well-known critiques of Lenin’s work was written by Rosa Luxemburg. Luxemburg had many critiques on Lenin and the Bolsheviks ideology, a few of them are more critical than the rest, for example: the land question. The Bolsheviks and Lenin intended to immediately seize and disperse land to the peasants. Luxemburg claims that not only is it “not a socialist measure; it even cuts off the way to such measures; it piles up insurmountable obstacles to the socialist transformation of agrarian relations.”(Luxemburg) She elaborates by claiming that if you were to give a peasant a parcel of land to farm and then attempt to enforce socialist laws on this new landowner, he will try and defend that piece of land to his death. That being said, it’s probably not the brightest idea to nonchalantly hand out property to people who are not capable of being responsible with it.
Vladmir Lenin passed away January 21st 1924. Sadly, he started something that he never got a chance to finish. One wonders what would have happened had Lenin lived on and Stalin never rose to become the dictator we all know. Would WWI have ended differently? Would WWII happen at all? Or to go even further; Would we even live in a capitalist society now? Who knows what effect Lenin would have had on the world, would it be positive or negative? I can say with confidence that I believe Lenin would have left a positive imprint on this world, I am disappointed that I will never witness the good he could’ve done. That being said, we can still study and dissect the works he left behind. So, if I had to define what “Power to the Soviets” means, I would say it was a call to arms. A rally cry for the bruised, broken, and stepped-on. It was the voice of millions speaking in one clear cry, demanding equality.
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