Communism (Vladimir Lenin)
Vladimir Lenin was a revolutionary Marxist thinker who organized the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia to implement the ideas of Marxism. He was the architect of the communist country called Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) that consisted of 15 Republics. Lenin contributed to the theoretical content of Marxism.
Lenin wrote in his work ‘What is to be done?’ his ideas of the Communist Party. Marx had called for a communist revolution to end capitalism and exploitation and Lenin as his successor developed the instrument of the party to carry out the proletariat revolution. He said the party should be formed in every industry and factory by a small group of workers who possess knowledge of Revolutionary Marxism. They must possess qualities and abilities like dedication, commitment and hard work. The members of the Communist Party should mobilize the workers ideologically to conduct the revolution. Lenin asserted that the party must be in the vanguard of the proletariat that is the forefront of the Proletariat Revolution.
It was expounded that the Communist Party should be organised on the basis of an innovative concept called Democratic Centralism. As the name indicates there are two features in the organisational structure of the Communist Party, democracy and centralism. Democratically, the lower organs of the party organisation must elect the members of the higher organs of the party. The party units in villages must elect the party units of the district and State units are to be elected by the district units of the party and the central unit will be elected by the State units.
The element of centralism in the Communist Party means that the decisions of the higher unit must be accepted and implemented by the lower units. The State units should accept the decisions of the central unit and district units must obey the decisions of the State unit and the village unit ought to follow the decisions of the district unit.
Imperialism refers to the system where European countries subjugated and exploited the Asian and African countries through military conquest and force. Lenin expounded a new insight linking imperialism and capitalism in his book ‘Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism’. He argued that capitalism had not faced self- destruction as Marx predicted. The capitalist countries exploit the subjugated Asian and African countries and through this looted wealth capitalism sustains itself in their home countries. There should be two revolutionary struggles, one the struggle of Asian-African countries against the imperialist Europe and another revolutionary struggle of working class in the western countries. Once these two struggles become successful, the two inter -linked exploitative forces of capitalism and imperialism will be destroyed and communist society of equality and fraternity will be born internationally.
Joseph Stalin was the general secretary of The Communist Party and Premier of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in the post-Lenin phase up to 1953. He introduced a major ideological component in Marxism called Socialism in One Country. The seed of the idea was first brought out by another communist theoretician Nikolai Bukharin.
Marxism rejected nationalism and supported universalism. It attacked nationalism as a bourgeois concept and appealed to the workers of the world to unite and fight to establish communism as seen in the last lines of Marx book ‘The Communist Manifesto’. The ultimate goal of Karl Marx was the formation of international socialist society through the instrument of world proletariat revolution. Karl Marx said, ‘The working men have no country’. Lenin also continued in the same vein and considered the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia as a springboard to global revolution.
Stalin makes a fundamental change in Marxism through the Socialism in One Country concept. He claimed to have developed his idea from Lenin’s statement that socialist revolution can emerge in even one country as detailed in the work ‘On the Slogan for a United States of Europe’.
The central theme of this concept is that socialism can be successfully established in Russia alone. Russian socialism is threatened by a capitalist encirclement as the western enemy capitalist countries avowedly endanger the existence of communist USSR. Stalin advocated the consolidation and strengthening of USSR so that it can withstand the capitalist threat postponing the task of organising an international communist revolution to a more appropriate period in the future. This thesis was accepted as the State policy of USSR and also by the Communist International organization.
Leon Trotsky criticized Stalinist socialism and reiterated the concept of permanent revolution advocated by Karl Marx. He called for the export of communist revolution to other countries of the world to achieve international communism and cautioned that otherwise communism within USSR itself will collapse.
Mao Zedong was one of the greatest Marxist theoreticians and practitioners in the history of the world. He founded the Communist Party of China and conducted the Communist Revolution in 1949, leading to the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.
Mao introduced certain changes in Communism to make it suitable for China. The modification of communism to reflect Chinese realities is described as Signification of Communism.
Karl Marx predicted that Communist Revolution will be seen only in west European countries that are fully industrialised and where workers are numerous and organised. But China in the decade of 1940s was an agricultural and industrially backward country. Karl Marx never considered that the peasants as a class have revolutionary potential as they are conservative and reactionary. Mao organized the peasants of China and succeeded in overthrowing the feudal exploitative State heralding the arrival of communism. Mao’s success in China provided a revolutionary model for the other agricultural countries of Asia and Africa.
Leninist concept of the Communist party as the vanguard of the revolutionary struggle was modified by Mao to suit Chinese conditions. Mao contended that the masses should not be separated from the revolutionary party in the domains of both policy and struggle. They should be integral to the Communist Party and the guiding principle is ‘from the masses to the masses’.
Mao believed in the ‘revolutionary struggle of the vast majority of people against the exploiting classes and their State structure’. He propagated the idea of People’s War. He suggested the intensive mobilization of the millions of peasants as part of the People’s War as they are the worst victims of feudalism and imperialism. The ideal strategy of war was to surround the cities by capturing the rural landscape with the help of mobilized peasants.
Mao believed in the unconventional guerilla warfare. As a strategy it had three stages. In the first stage, the Communist cadre will win the people through propaganda. In the second stage, the cadre will ambush and attack the military and vital State installations. In the third stage, the cadre will act as a conventional army fighting the army of the State and capturing cities after inflicting defeat. Mao also taught that any of three stages can be used any time depending on the circumstances.
The Communist Party of China conducted the Hundred Flower Campaign in the second half of 1950s and the chairman Mao said “Let the hundred flowers bloom. Let the hundred schools of thought contend”. He considered each thought as a flower and argued that all schools of thought must be allowed to bloom. The clash of thoughts will lead to the defeat and destruction of the rotten and obsolete ideas and better ones will endure competition and become successful. The ancient philosophy of Confucianism underwent this conflict of ideas test many centuries ago and came out successful. Though the State welcomed constructive criticism in the beginning, the campaign got derailed later as contention among ideas threatened the Communist Party of China itself.
Mao launched the Grand Proletarian Cultural Revolution in 1965-66 to exterminate’ representatives of the bourgeoisie who have sneaked into the party, the government, the army and various spheres of culture’ and destroy the ‘Four Olds’ — old ideas, old customs, old culture and old habits. The stated aim of the revolution was to save the Chinese communism from becoming a victim of bureaucratization induced by industrialization like the western countries and USSR. The actual backdrop was provided by the Great Leap Forward Campaign.
Mao implemented forcefully industrialization and collectivization as part of this campaign from 1958 to 1962 to rapidly change China from agricultural economy to socialist system. But, unfortunately, it resulted in the advent of the Great Chinese Famine killing millions of people. To reclaim the authority and legitimacy of the leader and the party cultural revolution was launched. It was argued that even after the establishment of communism the class struggle continues and intensifies and to weed out the communist enemies, Red Guards were organized. The members of the Red Guards adopted repressive measures against the class enemies even jailing the Chinese President. The role of the State and party was taken over by the paramilitary organization.
Marxism believed that the State is an instrument of exploitation of the workers by the capitalists and workers and capitalist are always antagonistic towards each other. Mao modified this fundamental feature of Marxism. He propounded the concept of New Democracy. He created a new alliance in which the peasantry, the proletariat, the petty bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie became members. Subsequently, Mao declared the formation of a new kind of State called People’s Democratic Dictatorship.
The working class and peasantry were provided with key positions in the State. The petty bourgeoisie and national bourgeoisie were accorded with junior partner status. The People’s Democratic Dictatorship guaranteed democracy for the general people while simultaneously acting as dictatorship over the enemies of the people especially those who were described as ‘running dogs of imperialism’. In ideal Marxism, the workers and bourgeoisie are adversaries but New Democracy treated them as partners.
Maoism continues to be the ruling ideology of the People’s Republic of China in the twenty first century in a changed milieu. The paramount leader Deng Xiaoping introduced massive changes in Chinese economy after 1978. Its economy has been infused with liberalization and globalization modifying fundamentally the communist economy of Mao period. But politically, the Communist Party of China continues to exercise monopoly of power.
Antonio Gramsci, the famous Italian Marxist, introduced the concept of hegemony to explain the operation of the capitalist State. Hegemony means intellectual and moral leadership. The State manufactures the consent of the people through intellectual and moral leadership. It tries to create a false consciousness among people through propaganda.
Its ideas are repeatedly driven into the minds of the people. Only when it fails to create the consent of the people, it starts using brutal force to carry out its activities. Gramsci also argues that, to destroy the capitalist State, the revolutionaries should use organic intellectuals and the Communist Party. The organic intellectuals will analyze the strength of the State and elucidate the means of destroying the State. The Communist Party will carry out the revolution and establish the ideal state of communism.
A group of philosophers who were associated with the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research in Germany developed new insights into Marxism that are described as Neo Marxism or Critical Theory. The important philosophers of this school are Herbert Marcuse, Jurgen Habermas and Theodor Adorno. Though there are great differences in their writings all of them uniformly protested against the systems of domination and exploitation. They focused on understanding the hidden roots and layers of domination. They concentrated on preparing the masses for revolutionary transformation by augmenting their true consciousness. They propounded the attitude to question the socio-cultural practices in all societies that perpetuate domination over the masses. Their writings can be characterised as counter-culture aiming for the emancipation of the masses.
Ralph Miliband is the main proponent of Instrumental Marxism. This school of thought takes an instrumental perspective of the state. The officials of the government and state come from the same background as the property or ruling class. They have personal contact with the members of the ruling class. Therefore the state is used as an instrument by officials and the members of the ruling class to perpetuate exploitation and to manufacture the ideological consent of the people for their hegemony.
Structural Marxism propounded by the French philosopher Louis Althusser and Nicos Poulantza is a new school of Marxism that emerged in the 1970s. It repudiated the arguments of Instrumental Marxism. Althusser debated with Ralph Miliband and asserted that the class origin and position of the administrators is purely incidental and has no significance. Regardless of class origin of officials the state is bound to aid exploitation because of its objective or structural position in the economic system.
Louis Althusser introduced further innovations in the Marxist concept of state. He argued that the capitalist State has two kinds of coercive instruments to safeguard itself.
1. Repressive State Apparatuses
2. Ideological State Apparatuses.
The Repressive State Apparatuses include police, military, law courts etc. They are repressive as they punish the people when their orders are not obeyed. The Ideological State Apparatuses include family, schools, colleges, the media and trade unions. The State creates consent and support from people by ideological indoctrination, without violence.