April 22 marks the 140th anniversary of the birth of one of the great classics of Marxism-Leninism, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. It was under the leadership of the Great Lenin that the Russian communists organised the working class and toiling masses of Russia to establish the first state of the workers and peasants on this earth.
Before Lenin, Marx and Engels had showed on the basis of science that it was the mission of the working class to be the grave digger of capitalism and to usher in the new era of socialism and communism in which exploitation of man by man would cease to exist. Lenin defended, applied and developed the theory of Marxism in the conditions of his time. The working class of Russia under the leadership of the communist party became the first to rise up and succeed in overthrowing the rule of the bourgeoisie and reaction and to establish a totally new power – the state of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The victory of the proletarian revolution in Russia in 1917 inaugurated a new epoch in world history. For the first time, the political power of the exploiting class had been eliminated and replaced, not by that of another exploiting class, but by the power of the toiling and oppressed masses. Generations of communists and revolutionaries all over the world have since then been inspired and guided by the theory and practice of Leninism in their struggle to bring about the rule of the working class and toiling people in their own countries.
To Lenin belongs the great merit of scientifically analysing, even before the victory of the October Revolution, that the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution had begun. In his major work of theory, “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism”, Lenin showed that capitalism had entered its last stage, that of imperialism, or moribund capitalism. All the contradictions of capitalism identified by Marx had intensified. Capitalism was incapable of resolving these contradictions that were tearing it apart. Lenin proved that destruction of productive forces on a large scale, crisis and war were the characteristic and inevitable features of imperialism.
Lenin showed that with capitalism entering the stage of imperialism, all the conditions were ripe for the outbreak of the proletarian revolution. Whereas earlier the assessment of conditions for the proletarian revolution was approached from the standpoint of the state of individual countries, with the belief that the proletarian revolution was likely to break out in those countries where capitalism was most advanced, Lenin pointed out that this approach is no longer adequate in the epoch of imperialism. Now the matter had to be approached from the standpoint of the state of the world economy, as imperialism is a world system of financial enslavement and plunder.
Lenin discovered the law of uneven economic and political development and concluded that the inter-imperialist contradictions, alongside the contradictions between exploiters and exploited, and between dominating imperialist states and dominated nations and peoples, makes it possible for revolution to succeed in one country initially. He predicted that revolution will break out in that country where the global chain of imperialism is the weakest, even though that country may not be advanced in the capitalist sense. He also predicted that every revolution will not lead to socialism, because that depends on whether a special arrangement – a state of the dictatorship of the proletariat – is created, as the principal instrument for the working class to lead society on the path of socialism and communism. His theory was proved correct by the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia in 1917, and the forward march of socialism in the Soviet Union over the next two decades. It has also been proved by the opposite outcome that has resulted in countries such as China where the dictatorship of the proletariat was not established.
Leninism has been called the theory and tactics of the proletarian revolution in general and the theory and tactics of the dictatorship of the proletariat in particular. Leninism is Marxism of this epoch of imperialism and proletarian revolution. As a higher stage of development of Marxism, it is called Marxism-Leninism. It is essential for a Communist Party in any country to base itself on the science of Marxism-Leninism to succeed in leading the working class and its allies in revolution, in establishing the rule of those who toil and replacing capitalism by socialism.
When the hated tsarist autocracy in Russia was overthrown in a revolution in February 1917, the Bolshevik Party under Lenin’s leadership did not allow the bourgeoisie to consolidate and retain the reins of power in its own hands under the Provisional Government of Kerensky. Instead, the Bolshevik Party organised the proletariat and working masses of Russia to go ahead and sweep away the bourgeois power and to take power into the hands of the Soviets, the organs of workers and peasants, on put in same line.
In the short period of time that he led the construction of socialism in the Soviet Union before his death in 1924, Lenin guided the Bolshevik Party on the hitherto uncharted course of establishing the new Soviet state and socialist economy, and defending them against the furious onslaught of enemies within and outside the country. Historic measures were taken to expropriate the bourgeoisie, nationalise the banks, land and major means of production, reconstruct the war-ravaged economy and lay the foundations of a flourishing socialist economy. A process of voluntary collectivization of land on the part of cultivating peasants was initiated. All this was done while successfully leading the fight against the combined attempts of the major imperialist powers and overthrown reactionaries to crush the revolution through armed intervention.
The new state of the dictatorship of the proletariat became the bastion of revolution and socialism on the world scale. Shortly after the establishment of the Soviet Union, the Third Communist International (Comintern) was established with its headquarters in Moscow to assist the development of the proletarian and revolutionary movements in countries around the world.
Along with the establishment of socialism, the dictatorship of the proletariat carried out the democratic tasks of the revolution in a much more rapid and thoroughgoing way than the bourgeoisie had ever done. The October Revolution thus showed, as Lenin said, that there was no “Chinese Wall” between the democratic revolution and the socialist revolution. In the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution, it was the proletariat, not the bourgeoisie, that would carry through to the end the fight against feudalism, the struggle for national liberation and other tasks of the democratic revolution.
The key to the proletariat achieving victory in the struggle against the bourgeoisie and establishing its own rule, Lenin showed, was the existence of a steel-like monolithic party of the working class which based itself on the science of Marxism. Lenin played the decisive role in establishing such a party, the Communist Party of Soviet Union (Bolshevik). He first of all worked tirelessly to unite the various Marxist groups in Russia into a single party. He also waged many struggles to forge that party into the true vanguard capable of leading the proletariat to victory over the bourgeoisie.
In his work, “What Is To Be Done?”, Lenin fought against those who were bowing to the lowest level of consciousness prevailing in the working class. He established the ideological foundations of a vanguard party that would be the leading contingent of the class, the instrument for imbuing the advanced elements of the class with revolutionary theory and outlook.
Lenin waged a stern ideological struggle against those who wanted to keep the party as a loose association of like-minded members. He pointed out that it was not enough for party members to agree with the party program and pay regular dues; they would also have to work under the discipline of a party organisation. Without that, the party could never achieve the steel-like unity needed to lead the class to defeat the bourgeoisie.
Through his work, Lenin established democratic centralism – at the core of which is collective decision making and individual responsibility – as the organisational principle of the communist party, which would allow for maximum participation and initiative of the individual members while enabling the party to act like one fist.
Lenin’s efforts to build the party, carry out the revolution and build socialism were marked at every step by fierce struggle to defend and uphold the fundamental principles of Marxism against distortions and falsifications which threatened to weaken the working class and revolutionary movement. This relentless ideological struggle against revisionism and opportunism was absolutely necessary to clarify to the communists and advanced workers the path of struggle. In his profound work “The State and Revolution”, Lenin upheld the fundamental theses of Marx and Engels on the necessity for the proletariat to smash the bourgeois state and replace it with an entirely new state apparatus that would be in service of the working class. In “The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky”, he smashed attempts to create illusions in the working class movement about bourgeois democracy, and brilliantly contrasted bourgeois democracy with proletarian democracy under the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The great Marxist-Leninist, J.V.Stalin, explained that Leninism was not merely the science of Marxism as applied to the special conditions of Russia, but that it was the guide to applying Marxism in the present era in world history, the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution. Guided by Marxism-Leninism, the working class around the globe challenged the might of imperialism and reaction and succeeded in establishing its state power in many countries. The socialist system established in the Soviet Union, in Albania and other countries had historic achievements in terms of emancipating and uplifting the working class, peasantry and other toiling masses, in emancipating women, and ending exploitation, poverty, hunger and other ills of the old world. The advanced economies that were built based on socialist ownership astonished the world and showed up the bankruptcy of the crisis-ridden capitalist economies with their extremes of wealth and poverty.
Although socialism in the Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe no longer exists, the struggle of the working class against the crisis-ridden capitalist system and for socialism continues in every corner of the globe. Marx had pointed out that the course of the proletarian revolutions is not smooth. As he said, they “constantly criticize themselves, constantly interrupt themselves in their own course, return to the apparently accomplished, in order to begin anew”. The bourgeoisie, which had crowed about the “end of communism” after the fall of the Soviet Union, now finds itself ensnared in a deeper and broader crisis than ever.
The forces of the proletariat, in our country as well as all over the world, are preparing and strengthening themselves, guided by the science of Marxism-Leninism, and by the lessons drawn from its application to the class struggle up to the present time. This includes the lessons from the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union, Albania and other countries. The challenge before Indian communists, is to defend the fundamental principles and conclusions of Marxism-Leninism, and develop the theory of liberation of the Indian people consistent with these principles and conclusions.