Leninism, a study guide

If you want to get a study group going in your college or workplace, a good place to start is with J Stalin’s pamphlet Foundations of Leninism. You can use the study guide below to help guide discussion. It provides some questions and learning outcomes to help. If your studying alone and want to deepen and cement what you’ve already read, use it in the same way.

Leninism

based on Stalin’s “Foundations of Leninism

DISCUSSION ONE

THE HISTORICAL ROOTS OF LENINISM

Purpose of the discussion

  1. To reach an understanding of Leninism in relation to Marxism.
  2. To study the chief contradictions of capitalism, and show why in the period of imperialism these reach their most acute point, leading to proletarian revolution.
  3. To explain the method of Leninism, in contrast to the method of the opportunists.

Plan of the discussion

What is Leninism?

Marxism gives a scientific view of the world and the development of society; Leninism is based on Marxism. Leninism is Marxism of the era of developed imperialism and the proletarian revolution. To study Leninism means to study the theory and tactics of the proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Leninism as the restoration and development of Marxism; what made it essential both to restore and develop Marxism?

(a)    distortion and suppression of Marxism by the Second International;

(b)   the development of capitalism to its highest and last stage, imperialism;

(c)    the new conditions of clas struggle in the era of imperialism in that “imperialism carries the contradictions of capitalism to the extreme limit, beyond which revolution begins.”

What are the basic contradictions of capitalism; why do these contradictions reach there most acute point in the imperialist stage of capitalism?

Note the three basic contradictions inherent in capitalism and explain why they reach their most extreme point under conditions of imperialism:

(a)    between labour and capital – effects of monopoly capitalism and domination of finance capital;

(b)   between rival financial groups and powers – leading to world wars for re-division and domination of the world in the imperialist stage;

(c)    between the ruling nations, i.e., the imperialist powers, and the colonial peoples – export of capital leading to increased exploitation and oppression which develop national consciousness and revolutionary liberation movements in colonies.

How do these conditions affect the class struggle of the proletariat? In what sense do they create favourable conditions for proletarian revolution?

Have these basic contradictions developed even further since Stalin wrote of them in 1924? Give examples.

 

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Why was Russia the home of Leninism? Why did the world proletarian revolution achieve its first decisive victory over imperialism in Russia? What significance has this for the present day?

Summarise points made in answers and Stalin’s remarks on pp.16-18  by explaining Lenin’s definition of the law of uneven development of capitalism. Under imperialism the uneven development and contradictions have grown particularly acute. Complete division of the world between the imperialist powers means that a more rapid state of development in one country upsets the balance between the powers and leads to imperialist war. The conflicts arising from the uneven development of capitalism undermine the strength of imperialism, and reveal the weaker links in imperialism; i.e., those countries in which all basic contradictions of capitalism reach their most extreme point. Provided that there exists “a real force capable of solving the contradictions of imperialism in a revolutionary way,” the world imperialist chain can be broken, and the victory of socialism achieved, at these weakest links (see also History of the CPSU (B), ch. 6, pp. 168-9).

How is the present war weakening imperialism?

What examples can be given of ‘weak links’ today?

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It has been noted that Leninism represents both the RESTORATION and FURTHER DEVELOPMENT of Marxism. Why was the restoring of Marxism an essential condition for its further development?

Note the following points, which should be brought out by means of questions and summarised:

(a)    what were the characteristics of the period of “domination of the opportunism of the Second International”? (the relatively peaceful development of capitalism etc, etc.)

(b)   What is the nature of opportunism? (“Opportunism means sacrificing to the temporary interests of an insignificant minority of the workers the fundamental interests of the masses, or, in other words, an alliance of a part of the workers with the bourgeoisie”- Lenin, War and the Second International, p. 39.)

(c)    What were the characteristic methods of the Second International? (i.e., political bargaining, parliamentary scheming, etc?)

What are the main features of the Leninist method?

 (a)    unity of theory and practice;

(b)   testing policy by deeds, not words.

(On these two points, bring out examples to show the division between theory and practice, words and deeds, in the work of the reformists, and their unity in the work of Marxist parties.)

(c)    organisation of Marxist party and its work in such a way as to fit it to train masses for revolutionary struggle.

(e.g., such a party cannot base its organisation on electoral activity and electoral units.)

(d)   self-criticism, vigilance in checking up political line and work.

(e.g., theory is a guide to action; Marxist theory does not give guarantee against mistakes, but self criticism enables mistakes to be quickly corrected.)

II Method

 Further Reading

Imperialism, V.I. Lenin. Chapter VII. Lawrence and Wishart’s Little Lenin Library

History of the CPSU (B). Chapter IV, Section II, p. 105.

War and the Second International, V.I. Lenin. Particularly section VII. Lawrence and Wishart’s Little Lenin Library edition.

DISCUSSION TWO

WORKING CLASS POWER

Purpose of the discussion

1. to show the importance of Marxist Leninist theory for the working class, plus the need for constant struggle against the influence of opportunist theories and falsification of Marxism

  1. to explain and illustrate some main aspects of the theory of proletarian revolution, in contrast to the dogmas of the reformists
  2. to show the roe of the dictatorship of the proletariat, in the conquest of political power and the transition from capitalism to Communism

Plan of the discussion

What is the importance of theory?

Theory is the summing up of the experience of the working class in all countries. Show why theory without practice is barren, and practice without theory is blind. Show how theory becomes a tremendous force when it is linked with practice and grips the masses.

Why is contempt for, or neglect of, theory by practical workers “fraught with danger for the cause”?

Apply this to the party of the working class as a whole: can such a party fulfil the role of vanguard if its activities are not based on revolutionary theory?

 What is the essence of opportunist theory? Why is the struggle to break down the influence of opportunist theories essential before Marxist theory can grip the masses?

Stalin sums up the gist of opportunist theories giving examples also of distortion of Marxism. Explain some typical forms which these theories and distortion of Marxism have taken in the British Labour Movement.

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What are the conditions which make imperialism “the eve of the Socialist Revolution”?

  1. the parasitic character of monopolist capitalism develops the revolt of the masses against the foundations of capitalism in the “mother countries.”
  2. the exploitation of the whole world by a handful of imperialist countries develops the revolt of the colonial peoples
  3. uneven development leads to imperialist wars for re-division of the world, weakening imperialism and facilitating the establishment of a world revolutionary front

Stalin cites examples of the contrast between the Leninist theory of proletarian revolution and the dogmas of the second International. What examples can be drawn from the reformist theoreticians and pseudo-Marxists in Britain?

  e.g., impossibility of working class revolution in Britain (food supplies, “national character,” etc.), incapacity of colonial people for self-government.

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What constitutes a revolutionary situation and what are the conditions essential for victory of the proletarian revolution?

Examine in detail the passage from Left Wing Communism quoted by Stalin on pp. 40-41. Are such conditions prevalent in Britain? Are they maturing? Will they ripen “spontaneously”?

What is the central question in the proletarian revolution and transition from capitalism to Communism?

“The fundamental question of revolution is the question of power.” (Lenin, quoted, p.42)

What do the reformists mean by “winning political power”?

Electoral victories; parliamentary majorities; participation in coalition governments; Labour governments; in this way gain control of state and organise gradual transition to Socialism.

Why does this inevitably lead to alliance with capitalism against class struggl eof workers?

What is political power? Through what means does the capitalist class impose and maintain its position as an exploiting and ruling class?

The state is the instrument of capitalist dictatorship over the working class. Can the working class “simply lay hold of the ready made state machinery and wield it for its own purpose”?

What is the dictatorship of the proletariat, and what are its tasks?

Not just a change of government, but a “new state with new organs of power.”

Seizure of power only the beginning, to retain and consolidate power, working class must be organised through three main tasks:

(a)    break resistance of the bourgeoisie, which for a time remains stronger than the proletariat hich has overthrown it;

(b)   organise construction and socialist production;

(c)    build up a Red Army, Navy and Air Force.

From what sources do the overthrown bourgeoisie draw their strength?

What examples can be given to show how the bourgeoisie cherish the hope of restoring capitalism and work for it years after the revolution? 

What is the essential difference between the dictatorship of the proletariat and all hitherto existing dictatorships?

 All other state forms represent dictatorship of the exploiting minority over the exploited majority; Soviet state the exact opposite.

What is the nature of capitalist democracy?

What is the nature of proletarian, socialist democracy?

What is the form in which the dictatorship of the proletariat, i.e., the proletarian state, is organised?

 The Soviets. Arise as organs of revolutionary struggle for power (note four features described on p. 51); on conquest of power the Soviets become transformed into organs of power, i.e., the state form of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

What are the characteristic features of Soviet Power?

Examine carefully the six characteristic features described in pp. 52-53; note how these features make the Soviet Republic “the political form, so long sought and finally discovered, within the framework of which the economic emancipation of the proletariat, complete victory of socialism is to be accomplished.”

Essential reading

Foundations: III – Theory; IV – The dictatorship of the Proletariat

Further reading

Imperialism, V.I. Lenin. Chapters VIII, IX and X

State and Revolution, V.I. Lenin. Particularly chapters III and V (Lawrence and Wishart editions)

How the Soviet State is Run, Pat Sloan. Marxist Textbook Series (Lawrence and Wishart)

 

 DISCUSSION THREE

THE NATIONAL PROBLEM AND THE PEASANT PROBLEM

 Purpose of the discussion

  1. to establish the relationship of the peasant problem and the national problem to the problem of proletarian revolution
  2. to examine the particular significance of the Leninist teachings on the peasant and national problems for the British working class movement
  3. to show the basis and consequences of the opportunist standpoint of the reformists on these problems

Plan of the discussion

The fundamental question of Leninism is the problem of achieving and consolidating the dictatorship of the proletariat. Can this be accomplished by the proletariat alone, without allies?

 Note the difference between the Second International and Leninism on this question.

“Those who are marching towards and preparing to assume power cannot but be interested in the question of who are their real allies.”

Parties of the Second International “who do not want to lead the proletarians to power, cannot be interested in the question of allies.” (p.56)

Among what sections of the people, on a national and world scale, can the proletariat find potential allies, i.e., sections whose interests are bound up with the fight against imperialism? 

Note sections who are exploited and oppressed by monopoly capitalism, i.e., imperialism. On a national scale: the middle strata, smallholders, tenant farmers, small shopkeepers, intelligentsia, etc. On a world scale: oppressed peoples in colonial and semi-colonial countries.

On what basis can these sections be won as allies of the working class? 

Support by the working class for all progressive demands of these sections.

Has this anything in common with the vote-catching sharp practice of reformist candidates angling for “the middle-class vote”? (The difference between pandering to backward middle-class prejudices and supporting progressive demands which express the conflict of these sections with monopoly capitalism.)

What sections of the people, on a world scale, are most severely oppressed by Imperialism? How does the struggle against national oppression affect the struggle of the working class?

Note the division of the world into a handful of imperialist ruling states, and the oppression by these of hundreds of millions in colonies, semi-colonies and national minorities.

Note, also, that while the exploitation and oppression of colonies is a main source of the strength of imperialism, the growth of the mass movement for national liberation in the colonies is a decisive factor in weakening imperialism.

Hence, the struggle of the colonial peoples against imperialism facilitates the struggle for the working class.

Is there any basis upon which the struggle of the colonial peoples and the struggle of the working class in the imperialist countries can be combined into a single world front against imperialism? 

Show why the interests of both movements call for this amalgamation, without which the final victory of either is impossible.

Basis for common front: resolute and active support by proletariat for national liberation struggle of the oppressed peoples.

Does this mean that the proletariat should support every national liberation movement?

Note progressive, anti-imperialist character of national liberation movement in Indian and Chinese peoples; contrast to this the reactionary character of some so-called national movements, e.g., to restore monarchy in Austria, to “liberate” peoples of Byelorussia and Western Ukraine from Soviet rule to former status of national oppression under Polish feudal regime, etc. The first kind weakens imperialism; the second strengthens imperialism; the proletariat supports only those national liberation movements which weaken imperialism and facilitate the victory of the proletarian cause.

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What is the relation of the National question to the question of proletarian revolution?

As Stalin says: “The question of the right of nations is not an isolated, self-sufficient question; it is part of the general problem of the proletarian revolution, subordinate to the whole, and must be considered from the point of view of the whole.” Only the victory of the proletarian revolution can bring the solution of the national question as can be seen from the example of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. At this stage, the struggle of the colonial peoples for freedom, is bound up with the struggle of the world proletariat against the Fascist aim of world domination. Victory of the Soviet Union and its allies is necessary not only for the liberation of the peoples directly subjugated by Germany and for the further advance of the working-class movement, but is also the necessary condition for the progress of the liberation movement of oppressed nationalists in all parts of the world.

Stalin gives examples of the essential difference between Leninism and opportunism on the national question (see pp.68-70), drawing on the practice of the Second International as a whole. Can these generalisations be proved from the practice of opportunism in Britain? 

(a)   general blunting and evasion of colonial issues; “moral” criticism of incidental “evils” of imperialism in place of class analysis and fight against imperialism as such;

(b)   special problem of British Empire as most powerful colonial empire and bulwark of imperialism covered over with phrases about “commonwealth of nations”;

(c)    principle of right of nations to self determination, including right of secession, substituted by phrases about “trustee-ship,” “preparing the natives to manage their own affairs,” and “self government within the empire” for India;

(d)   while opposing national liberation struggle of colonial peoples within “their own” empire, use slogan of “liberation” of peoples oppressed by rival powers to justify support for imperialist war.

Hence, need for “stubborn, continuous and determined struggle” against opportunism on national question: “without such a struggle the education of the working class of the ruling nations in the spirit of true internationalism. . . in the spirit of real preparation for the proletarian revolution, is inconceivable” (p. 75).

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Socialists strive for the union of nations within a world economic system. Why cannot this aim be achieved under capitalism? 

Note the two tendencies of capitalism in the national question (see p. 74): (a) creation of national states (e.g., Germany, Italy, etc.) – characteristic of developing capitalism; (b) growth of intercourse between nations and breaking down of national barriers – chatacteristic of developed capitalism. But neither can be fully developed under capitalism; they contradict each other: hence, “swallowing up” of small nations by world powers, and erection of new barriers to world intercourse – e.g., world monopolies, tariffs, etc., etc.

Why do these two tendencies stand in direct contradiction to each other under capitalism?

Note that “imperialism cannot exist without exploiting colonies and forcibly retaining them. . . because imperialism can bring nations together only by means of annexation.” Hence, greatest measure of “union of nations” possible for imperialism is: (a) unity of oppressed nations under domination of oppressor nation within imperialist blocks; (b) imperialist struggle for further “union of nations” taking form of wars of conquest waged against rival powers for world domination (e.g., League of nations in this connection).

Do the slogans of self determination, right of secession and formation of independent national states contradict the aim of unity of nations within a world economic order, socialism?

 Note practical experience of U.S.S.R,:

(a)   active support of Bolsheviks for struggle of oppressed nationalities in old Tsarist Empire;

(b)   proletarian revolution liberated these peoples from national oppression;

(c)    sympathy and support of former oppressed peoples won on this basis decisive factor in victory of proletarian revolution;

(d)   mutual confidence thus established between peoples of the former ruling and oppressed nations laid basis for voluntary union of equal nations in the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics, on the basis of single economic order.

Therefore, no contradiction between creation of independent national states (“right of secession”) and union of nations (world unity on basis of a “single world economic system, which is the material basis of socialism”); point to union of nations lies through breaking down imperialist oppression, liberating oppressed colonies, freeing working class from capitalist exploitation and thereby operating basis for voluntary co-operation and union.

Essential reading

Foundations. V – The Peasant Problem. VI – The National Problem.

Further Reading

Marxism, Nationality and War. Edited by Dona Torr. In two parts. (Lawrence & Wishart; 2/- each.)

Marxism and the National and Colonial Question. By J.Stalin. (Lawrence & Wishart; 3/6.)

 

DISCUSSION FOUR

STRATEGY AND TACTICS

 Purpose of the discussion

  1. to study the strategy and tactics of Leninism or, in other words, the science of the leadership of the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat
  2. to show the difference between revolutionary tactics and reformist tactics.

Plan of the Discussion

 Of what do the Strategy and Tactics of Leninism consist?

 The system of rules or guiding principles worked out by Lenin for the leadership of the class struggle of the proletariat. Briefly: the science of leadership of this struggle. 

What is Strategy? 

Strategy deals with the general aim for the proletariat for a whole stage of revolution and with the plan for the disposition of forces, the allies of the proletariat, and the reserves that can be called upon. It is concerned with the fight to carry out this plan through the whole of that stage of the revolution.

After examining the three stages of the Russian Revolution as described by Stalin, examine the strategy which applies to the present stage of the revolution in this country?

 Strategy cannot be determined exclusively within national limits; it must be determined in any one country by reference to the world situation and relation of forces on a world scale. The present world situation is dominated by the offensive of the Axis Powers, led by Nazi Germany, aimed at world domination, destruction of national independence and democratic liberties. The main blow of reaction is directed against the Soviet Union as the most powerful obstacle to the achievement of fascist world domination. The relation of forces on a world scale is determined by this situation. The contradictions between the capitalist powers create temporary common interests between the Soviet Union, Britain, and other States conquered or menaced by Nazi Germany. On this basis, the alliance between Britain and Soviet Union has been established.

Strategy of world proletariat – i.e., proletarian State and proletariat of all countries – destruction of Nazi Germany. Completion of this stage essential basis for further advance to fulfilment of historical mission of proletariat. Allies in this stage include both alliance of states with Soviet Union, and alliance of peoples within each country. In this country main blow must be directed against pro-Fascists both inside and outside Government circles who are working against the building of a United National Front against Fascism.

What are the Tactics of the Struggle?

Tactics are a part of strategy, subordinate to it and serving it. Tactics are concerned with the forms of struggle and of organisation necessary for the success of a particular campaign or a particular action.

In Britain, at the present time, our tactics, nationally and in each locality, are determined by a consideration of how to bring the widest possible sections of the population into active participation in the struggle against Fascism. We have to find out which forms of activity under the given conditions, will most rapidly develop the national united front. We strive to get united working-class action as the basis for wider united action of all anti-Fascists.

Example: the demonstration in Feltham, Middlesex, addressed by Maisky on August 31, and reported by the B.B.C. was one of the first examples of united action by all organisations of the people in one locality, including the Trades Council, the Labour Party, the Communist Party, the Conservative Party and a whole number of prominent citizens, including the Mayor.

Has such activity been achieved in your locality?

If not, what are the next steps to be taken?

Examine the tactics used in a particular factory, in order to get increased production and prevent waste. 

Strategic Leadership

The reserves of the revolution can be direct or indirect. As direct reserves, Stalin mentions four: (1) peasantry and intermediate strata; (2) proletariat of neighbouring countries; (3) movement of colonial peoples; (4) achievements of dictatorship of the proletariat.

Does each of these apply to this country, and what is their importance to us?

Among indirect reserves, Stalin includes conflicting interests among the other sections of the population and conflicts between the bourgeois States.

Show how the second contradiction of capitalism mentioned by Stalin, between rival financial groups and powers, is of immense significance in the struggle for socialism at the present time.

Are we winning the support of all possible allies? 

In answering this question, we must consider whether we use those arguments which make the most appeal to each section of the population, professional workers, shopkeepers, religious people, etc.; whether we are able to show an Irish worker, for instance, how the struggle for the independence of his country is bound up with the struggle against Fascism.

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What are the principle conditions which ensure correct strategic leadership? 

  1. Concentration of the main forces of the revolution at the enemy’s most vulnerable spot at the decisive moment.
  2. Selecting the moment when the crisis has reached its climax to deal the decisive blow
  3. Undeviating pursuit of a course, once it has been adopted, whatever the difficulties.
  4. Knowing how to retreat in order to gain time when the enemy is strong.

Tactical Leadership

The essence of correct tactics is to use those forms of struggle and of organisation which will carry the movement forward at that particular time, and to concentrate on the central immediate issue, passing on to the next issue as soon as the former begins to lose its importance.

What are the different forms of struggle and how can they be  made use of? 

Examine the use of economic and political forms of struggle in order to get the most rapid development of a National United Front against Fascism. Show how we combine economic and political forms in our effort to get increased production and to get rid of inefficiency and waste. Importance of ability to concentrate on whichever form of struggle is the most important at the time, without neglecting the other forms, and to combine struggle in Parliament with struggle outside of it.

What is meant by choosing the form of organisation which will carry the movement forward?

Concentrate on those forms of organisation which help to develop the initiative of the masses and bring them forward through their own experience at a particular time. (Shop Stewards, Trades Councils, Councils of Action, Shelter Committees, etc.)

What is meant by concentrating on the central issue? 

To seize the most useful link in the chain of processes and pass on to the next link as soon as this one loses its importance. Essentially, this means to concentrate on the issue which affects the workers most strongly at the moment.

Take the example of any factory group and show how its influence has grown only when it has studied the desires of the workers and given leadership on the issue which is affecting them most at the moment.

Reformism and Revolution

What is the difference between revolutionary tactics and reformist tactics?

Is Leninism opposed to all reforms and compromises?

Explain the difference between the attitude of the reformist and of the revolutionary to reforms under imperialism.

To the reformist, reforms are an end in themselves, an alternative to revolutionary struggle because he only thinks of manoeuvring within the capitalist system, not in terms of destroying it.

To the revolutionary, reforms are incidents in the revolutionary struggle, which can be used to develop and strengthen the revolutionary movement.

Essential Reading

Foundations. VII – Strategy and Tactics

Further Reading

“Left – Wing” Communism. V.I. Lenin. Particularly chapter VI to the end. (Lawrence & Wishart. Little Lenin Library; 3d)

DISCUSSION FIVE

THE PARTY OF THE WORKING CLASS

 Purpose of the discussion

  1. To make clear the Leninist conception of the revolutionary party in contrast to the opportunist conception of the party.
  2. To make clear the fundamental characteristics of a Marxist party of the working class
  3. To show that the party of the working class is strengthened by the fight against opportunism.

Plan of the Discussion 

Why were the parties of the Second International not fit to lead the revolutionary struggle of the workers?

 Why was it necessary to develop a new conception of the party of the working class? What is the essential difference between the Leninist and the opportunist conceptions of the party?

Parties of the Second International grew up in the period of the peaceful development of capitalism; new conditions brought new revolutionary tasks, for which these parties were not fitted.

Is this even more true (or more obvious) today of the parties of the Labour and Socialist International?

 Why is it false to argue that revolutionaries “can do better work” by remaining in the old opportunist parties than by building a new type of party? 

In characterising this new conception of the party of the working class, Stalin develops six specific features, contrasting these with the characteristics of the parties of the second International.

First feature: THE PARTY AS THE VANGUARD OF THE WORKING CLASS. 

The parties of the Second International renounce the role of the leader of the working class and represent themselves to be “national” parties, based on “community” instead of proletarian class interests, and pride themselves on being “open to all.”

Leninism rejects this conception: the cause of the working class can succeed only if it is led by a party of the working class, based on revolutionary theory, composed of the most class-conscious workers, serving as a vanguard of the working class as a whole, its revolutionary general staff.

What is the distinction between the vanguard of the working class and the working class as a whole?

What is the fate of a party that allows this distinction to become a gap separating it from the masses?

What is the essential condition without which the vanguard party cannot develop the consciousness of the working class as a whole? 

Second feature: THE PARTY AS THE ORGANISED DETACHMENT OF THE WORKING CLASS.

The proletarian party serves not only as a political leadership, but also as an “organising nucleus” for the working class as a whole. To accomplish this, the party must itself be the embodiment of discipline and organisation.

The party is, therefore, a single organised whole: every member is a member of a basic unit; the basic units are subordinate to higher party bodies; all party work is directed from party centre.

Contrast to this the structure of the Labour Party: e.g., federal principle; loose individual membership; structure designed for parliamentary purposes; centralisation and discipline invoked to check, and not develop, class struggle, etc.

What is the difference between democratic centralism and the practice of the Labour Party?

 Third feature: THE PARTY AS THE HIGHEST FORM OF CLASS ORGANISATION OF THE PROLETARIAT. 

In addition to its political party, the working class has a wide variety of non-party organisations – trade unions, co-operatives, youth leagues, etc.

Why has the working class need of such organisations? 

All these organisations are built to serve the immediate needs of the working class or some other section of the working class in one or another particular sphere. The proletarian party is the highest form of organisation of the working class because it represents the interests, present and future, of the working class as a whole. As such, it is the one organisation capable of providing a general line and a basis for unity of action by all organisations of the working class.

Does this mean that the party seeks to subordinate these organisations to itself?

By what means can these organisations be won to voluntary acceptance of the political guidance of the proletarian party? 

Fourth feature: THE PARTY AS THE INSTRUMENT OF THE DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT.

The party is not an end in itself, but an instrument (a) for achieving the dictatorship of the proletariat, and (b) for consolidating and expanding the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The dictatorship of the proletariat covers the entire period of transition from capitalism to Communism; as the instrument of the dictatorship, “it follows that when classes disappear and the dictatorship of the proletariat withers away, the party will also wither away.” 

Fifth feature: THE PARTY IS THE EMBODIMENT OF UNITY OF WILL, INCOMPATIBLE WITH THE EXISTENCE OF FACTIONS.

The party must be united. It must have unity of will, unity of action and iron discipline. Factions or divisions of authority would obviously wreck this unity and are therefore impermissible.

Does this preclude criticism and contests of opinion? Does it mean “blind” discipline?

What is the distinction between Leninism and opportunism in these respects? Is it that the parties of the Second International have no discipline and tolerate any kind of groupings? (Note discipline applied exclusively against the left.)

 Sixth feature: THE PARTY IS STRENGTHENED BY PURGING ITSELF OF OPPORTUNIST ELEMENST.

Opportunism is the result of the influence of the bourgeoisie on the proletariat. The party must be kept free of this influence. There must be a continuous and ruthless struggle against opportunist elements in the party, which is strengthened by the expulsion of such elements.

Give examples to prove the contention that the party is strengthened by expulsion of opportunist elements.

In answering this question, it is important to stress the fact that all differences of opinion must be brought out and discussed and comrades must be encouraged to do this. A distinction should be made between honest criticism or unclarity which can be cleared up on the one hand and hostile and destructive criticism on the other. The latter can usually be traced to influences outside the party of a “Left” Trotskyist or Right opportunist nature.

In all its work the party must combine vision, foresight and zeal with efficiency in checking up on decisions, carrying them through, and in conducting all work of the party in a businesslike way. In developing this combination of qualities as a specific Leninist style of work, two dangers must be guarded against: (a) the danger of revolutionary zeal degenerating into “hollow phrasemongering” (e.g., planning and taking decisions without attention to carrying these through) and (b) the danger of “efficiency” becoming a cloak for routinism, “narrow practicalism” (e.g., absorbtion in details to the exclusion of revolutionary perspective).

Essential Reading

Foundations. VIII – The Party. IX – Style in Work.

Further Reading

“Left – Wing” Communism. V.I. Lenin. Chapter V

Problems of Leninism. J. Stalin. Section V in collected volume. Lawrence and Wishart.