Today 21/01/2014 marks 90 years since the death of comrade Lenin the father of the Bolshevik Revolution and hero of the international working class movement. Joe Phinn pays tribute to Lenin’s life, work, revolutionary strategy and its importance today.
“You have seen during the past few days the pilgrimage of scores and hundreds of thousands of working people to Comrade Lenin’s bier. Before long you will see the pilgrimage of representatives of millions of working people to Comrade Lenin’s tomb. You need not doubt that the representatives of millions will be followed by representatives of scores and hundreds of millions from all parts of the earth, who will come to testify that Lenin was the leader not only of the Russian proletariat, not only of the European workers, not only of the colonial East, but of all the working people of the globe.” – Josef Stalin 26th January 1924
These were the closing words to a speech delivered to the Second All-Union Congress of Soviets. Five days earlier – January 21st, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the Soviet people and the people’s of the world had lost their leader. Today we solemnly mark the 90th anniversary of the passing of this great colossus of history, the great proletarian strategist, Comrade Lenin.
On April 22nd 1870 in the city of Simbirsk Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov was born. Coincidentally, the son of a teacher, Lenin would surpass his father and all others, by teaching the science of Marxism to the masses of the world.
Prior to becoming our great teacher, he was of course a student and here displayed signs of the man he would become. After studying for only 3 months in Kazan, Lenin was expelled for illegal political activity. Undeterred by circumstances he would return to university gaining a first class Law degree, without attending any lectures. His extraordinary aptitude was self-evident.
While we all know Lenin as the great strategist, revolutionary and political leader, this did not simply come to pass. But, was a result of a long process of struggle, observing and learning from the masses. He applied the scientific method to politics, synthesizing and developing Marxism in the era of imperialism.
This development of theory was integral to his practical achievements that would later come in leading the revolution. As Lenin himself told us “without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement.” Post-Marx and Engels, the workers movement and Marxism itself had been held hostage by reformism. The leading theorists of the time, the Kautsky’s and Bernstein’s were mirrored and reflected by the leadership of the treacherous Second International. Lenin led the way in exposing these enemies in the workers movement by way of the scientific method of Marxist analysis.
The treachery of the Second International reached a climax with the onset of World War One. As Europe plunged into its darkest hour, the so-called representatives of the working class encouraged the masses to take up arms against one another, in defence of the fatherland. Mass slaughter ensued.
It was the Bolsheviks, led by Lenin who rallied against the war and speeded up it’s eventual end. The peasant nation of Russia had been thrown into battle against developed industrial states. Men armed with pitchforks were sent to be mowed down by rifle and machine gun.
The Russian masses more than most had been demoralised by the living hell unleashed by Europe’s Kings, Kaisers and Tsars. But, in Lenin, the Russian masses were blessed with a visionary and leader who could show the way out of hell and forward to paradise. The Tsarist regime had brutalised the Russian people during the war, and before. Lenin’s own brother had been but one of the many executed by the Tsar’s forces. Lenin himself had suffered arrest and exile, as was the fate of other leading Bolsheviks including Stalin. The punishment suffered by the Bolsheviks, ultimately dug the Tsar’s own grave. The time in exile may have forced Lenin out of direct contact with the workers in Russia. But in this time he developed his ideas, tactics and strategy. The aggregate of circumstances, created by the Tsar and ruling class, namely: the war and an exiled Lenin brought about their demise.
The revolution had come and for the first time in all of history, the working class held power through it’s vanguard party, the Bolsheviks. They brought Russia out of the war, thereby speeding up the war’s end and reducing the loss of life all over Europe. And this was not a simple thing. Lenin had to fight and win the support of the party to end the war, despite the best efforts of Trotsky and Bukharin to derail peace.
The opportunity to set about socialist construction in Lenin’s life was short, as was the peace brought by Brest-Litovsk. For soon Russia would be under siege by the imperialist powers of the world. Intent on strangling socialism at birth over a dozen countries hell-bent on Tsarist restoration, battled against the Bolsheviks and the Russian people in the ‘Civil’ War. Of course a 5 year struggle ended in victory for the Russian people and Lenin. But the task of socialist construction would ultimately fall to his comrades. This was a task only made achievable by the theoretical framework laid down by Lenin, which was to be the guiding force of the Soviet leadership in the following period.
From Lenin’s life and work we have much to learn. Comrades of the YCL must bear this in mind, more so than anyone. In our activities, we too must be guided by Lenin. We must be committed to revolutionary theory. We must study and understand if we are to have a revolutionary movement worthy of its name. Just as a doctor cannot practice medicine without studying the science, so too, without studying the science of Marxism-Leninism, a communist cannot apply it to the material world. As the future of the communist movement it is incumbent upon us to take our historic responsibilities seriously.
Students of the YCL should be congratulated for the formation of university and college communist societies. We must endeavour to extend these where possible and strive for increasing campus activism. But we can also use these as a platform for studying our science in order to grow our understanding, and show its correctness by way of example to the rest of the student movement.
While participation in the broad and general democratic movement is correct where our goals match, they will not always match. For the class interests of the proletariat and bourgeoisie inevitably come into conflict, and in such movements the worldview of the latter will always find some representation. At such crucial moments it is the responsibility of communists to defend the interests of the working class, these interests must never be sacrificed for the sake of unity. Lenin and the Bolsheviks were often attacked and derided as “fanatics for divisions and splits”. Let Lenin himself remind us that
“this too is the view of the latest variety of bourgeois democrats—the opportunists and revisionists, who yearn for a great united democratic party proceeding peaceably by way of reforms, the way of class collaboration. They have always been, and must necessarily be, opponents of ‘factional’ dissensions and supporters of the ‘general political’ movement.”
Our Communist Societies and YCL branches must win the wider student movement to our worldview, and will be a bulwark preventing the surrender of ours to theirs. Once more from Lenin we learn
“differing class interests are bound to be reflected in the political grouping too, that the students cannot be an exception to society as a whole, however unselfish, pure, idealistic, etc., they may be, and that the task of the socialist is not to gloss over this difference but, on the contrary, to explain it as widely as possible and to embody it in a political organisation.”
Our tasks are clear and understandable, and this is thanks to Lenin. He has taught us that the role of the communist youth is to learn. Most simply, we must learn communism and then we must teach communism. To be a communist, to follow in the path of Lenin is a fantastic privilege carrying weighty responsibility.
It is the youth who inherit the future, and so it is the youth who will shape it.
For this task, we must prepare, just as Lenin did.
He showed us the way to the future.
Lenin lived, Lenin lives, Lenin will live forever!
V.I.Lenin. 1903. The Tasks of the Revolutionary Youth.
V.I. Lenin. 1920. The Tasks of the Youth Leagues.