Lenin Lives

In August 1917 the Russian Revolution stood at a crossroads. The Bolshevik Party had been driven underground. Lenin was in hiding, his life under threat. But it was at this perilous and uncertain moment that he delved into theory, producing arguably his most famous work.

After a brief break, we welcome the return of our series, Lenin in a Year, in which we explore the many writings – some more and some less well-known – of history’s greatest revolutionary, V. I. Lenin, in this centenary year of his death. 

This year's May School, an annual theoretical school organized by the Polish section of IMT, Czerwony Front, was held under the slogan ‘In Defence of Lenin’, and proved to be a great success! It gathered more than 40 people, and was full of lively discussions, both during the sessions and in the breaks between them.

We publish here a contribution by Alan Woods to the pre-congress debate of the Brazilian Communist Party – Revolutionary Refoundation. The PCB-RR gathers the comrades who were bureaucratically expelled from the PCB in July – August 2023, after they raised a whole number of political differences, including regarding the question of the character of the war in Ukraine. We would like to thank the Provisional Political Committee of the PCB-RR for the opportunity for this exchange of ideas amongst Communists and we wish them success in their congress, which is taking place at the end of the month.

In April 1917, Lenin returned to Russia, arriving into Petrograd’s famous Finland Station. This was the beginning of his one-man struggle to politically reorient the Bolshevik Party – a vital stepping stone towards the October Revolution.

The outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 left Lenin practically isolated politically, and in exile with very few contacts with the party in Russia. The Second International had solemnly voted at several congresses to oppose the imperialist war, and in the case of its outbreak to use all means at their disposal to accelerate the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. Instead, all the major parties collapsed into social-chauvinism, each defending the interests of their own ruling class in the war.

Lenin’s position on the national question was a key element in the Bolsheviks’ success in the Russian Revolution. His article The Right of Nations to Self Determination, published in April-June 1914 as a polemic against Rosa Luxemburg and others, is one of his most outstanding works on the subject.

This week in our Lenin in a Year series, we republish a short but punchy article by Lenin, originally written in 1913 for the Bolshevik paper Prosveshcheniye (Enlightenment). In it, Lenin traces the unbroken thread that places Marxism as the successor and synthesis of the most progressive and revolutionary ideas that came before it.

This week in Lenin in a Year, we look at one of Lenin’s less well known writings, a major polemic against a trend that Marxists usually refer to as ‘ultraleftism’. The Faction of Supporters of Otzovism and God-Building was written in 1909, and it took up key questions of Marxist tactics and philosophy that an unprincipled ultraleft clique within the Bolshevik faction was seeking to revise.

In June, the International Marxist Tendency will take the monumental step of founding a new Revolutionary Communist International (RCI), to provide communist workers and youth around the world with a bold rallying point in the struggle to overthrow capitalism. In doing so, the RCI will build on the immense revolutionary legacy left behind by the Third (Communist) International, founded by Lenin and the Bolsheviks as the world party of revolution. Register now for the founding of the RCI!

Last week in Lenin in a Year, we delved into an important text that Lenin wrote amidst the 1905 Revolution: Two Tactics of the Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution. The revolution, however, went down to defeat. In the wake of the counter-revolution, all kinds of pessimism and mysticism swept Russia. These moods even infected layers of the Bolsheviks, reflected in attempts to revise Marxist philosophy. This week we republish Alan Woods’ excellent introduction to Lenin’s 1908 work, Materialism and Empirio-criticism, in which Lenin launched a strident defence of dialectical materialism.

When divisions among Russian Marxists between ‘Bolsheviks’ and ‘Mensheviks’ first emerged at the second congress of the RSDLP in 1903, they remained confined to secondary differences over organisational questions. Only with the 1905 Revolution did real political differences emerge, as Lenin explained in his brilliant pamphlet of that year, Two Tactics of the Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution. More than anything else, war and revolution bring out political differences with crystal clarity.

Communism is often presented by its enemies as being at best uninterested in art and culture, and at worst openly hostile to anything but the crudest propaganda. This is completely at odds with the approach of Lenin and the Bolsheviks, and genuine communists today. The Russian Revolution ushered in an explosion of artistic creativity, which for the first time was unshackled from the constraints of class society. This is the legacy that communists must defend.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back (The Crisis in Our Party) sees Lenin analysing the fallout of the Second Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP). The 1903 Congress saw the famous split emerge in the Russian workers’ movement between Bolshevism and Menshevism. However, the split didn’t initially concern differences in politics and perspectives, erupting over seemingly secondary organisational questions. Only in subsequent years, particularly around the 1905 Revolution, would those differences become sharply apparent, culminating in a formal and final split between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks in 1912.

In 1901, Lenin published his much awaited book, What is to be Done? This masterpiece of Marxist literature is an unparalleled handbook for anyone wanting to build a Bolshevik party, for anyone serious about the struggle to overthrow capitalism today. In this article, we explain what gives this book its enduring power, and why every communist should conquer this text today.

Most of the world’s women today are very far from achieving equality, let alone liberation. The wage gap between men and women is one thing, but inequality and oppression are about so much more than that. From the fear of leaving our drinks unattended when we are on a night out; to the anxiety of walking home alone, having to put up with constant sexist comments and stares; to doing the majority of housework; to doctors not taking ‘women’s diseases’ seriously and generally being treated as of lesser worth, the list goes on and on…

This week we are looking at a short, but pivotal text by Lenin, which laid out many of the tactics and methods that would play a key role in the building of the forces of communism in Russia. Written in 1901, Where to Begin?is a concise but masterful explanation of the need for tactical flexibility and the importance of the revolutionary press. It contains lessons that are enormously relevant to the fight for a revolutionary party today.

In this week’s instalment of Lenin in a year, we look at The Development of Capitalism in Russia, a magnificent yet little-read work, in which Lenin drew a clear red line between Marxism and all the other revolutionary trends then operating in Russia. For a deeper analysis and the wider context of this period of Lenin’s life, we recommend Wellred Books’ recent publication by Rob Sewell and Alan Woods: In Defence of Lenin. Get your copy today!

On 16 February in Naples, the comrades of the Italian section of the IMT, Sinistra Classe Rivoluzione (SCR) held a successful launch event at the Sala del Capitolo of the Complesso Monumentale di San Domenico Maggiore, in the city’s historic centre, for the Lenin lives! Campaign – an initiative to reclaim the real revolutionary legacy of Lenin in this, the centenary year of his death.

Few people in history are more slandered than Vladimir Lenin. From school textbooks to the capitalist press, the ruling class are desperate to blacken Lenin’s name wherever they get the opportunity. But how should communists respond?