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V.i. Lenin: His Own Point of View About Working Class

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His point is that while the working class may spontaneously gravitate toward socialism, bourgeois ideology also imposes itself on the working class to an even greater degree–hence, the crucial role of the party, not of intellectuals but of the most advanced workers, to winning the rest of the class to socialism. But he is also aware that these strivings will mean nothing unless a unified socialist party is built that can provide political leadership in the struggle – that is, can organize the working class to play not merely a role as a stage army used by liberals, but to lead in the fight to topple the autocracy. As Lenin summarized (in what is almost an exact paraphrase by Lenin of an article by an economist), the economists argued that the desirable struggle was that “which is possible, and the struggle which is possible is that which is going on at the given moment.

Lenin wanted the working class to lead the struggle against autocracy. Whereas the economists wanted to drag along at the tail of the movement, Lenin wanted the party to lead the movement. Lenin wanted socialist workers to become leaders in the party.

The economists blamed the working class for not being revolutionary enough; Lenin blames the socialists for “lagging behind the mass movement. Lenin’s work is infused with confidence in the “spontaneous” strivings of the working class toward socialist consciousness in Russia. It is with this in mind that Lenin emphases the importance of centralization (the movement had been completely decentralized), without which the autocracy could not be defeated; of the need for an all-Russian newspaper, without which a national party could not be built; and of creating an organization of professional revolutionaries (that is, people who devote themselves full time to party work.

On the other hand, how perverse Lenin’s thinking was, how blind he was for the organization he was creating, is seen in the words: “They [the revolutionaries] have a lively sense of their responsibility, knowing as they do from experience that an organization of real revolutionaries will stop at nothing to rid itself of an unworthy member. Third, the revolutionary movement in Russia can survive and endure, writes Lenin, only through strict organization. There is danger of “diversion” from the “correct path”, and this danger will be averted through the mixture of three things – the development of advanced revolutionary theory, critical examination of the experience of the social-democratic movements at home and abroad, and creation of a vanguard of revolutionary “fighters” guided by the revolutionary theory. Here comes the separation of “Bolsheviks” (“majority” of radical socialists) and “Mensheviks” (“minority” of moderate social reformers) in Russia. This is the point from which the moderate Western type socialism departs from the growing radicalism in the Russian social-democratic movement.

Lenin tries to lay out the founding principles of a strong socialist movement in Russia. Lenin does not want patchwork reforms; he pleads for revolution, for a change of the entire political system. Second (that follows from the first proposition), Lenin argues that the observation of the historical experience of the working classes shows that the workers cannot develop class consciousness by their own efforts. He believes that the unchecked power of the social-democratic (later Bolshevik or communist) elite will rest on “comradeship” and “mutual confidence. It is amazing how this pragmatic approach to building a strong militant organization was married with the total lack of discrimination to the fact that such an organization will rest on terror and coercion – actions that destroy societies, not build them anew.

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