Monday, June 17, 2013

Left-Wing Communism

Left wing politics are usually described ad the perspective or political position by a person that supports social equality as opposed to social hierarchy. "Left-Wing" Communism: an Infantile Disorder by Lenin was written on April the year 1920. Lenin’s intention in writing this book was to put together all the lessons that the Bolshevix Party in Russia had gathered from its involvement in three revolutions that occurred in Russia within a span of twelve years. Lenin’s target audience was the European Communists. In the year 1904, Rosa Luxemburg wrote her critique of Lenin’s perception in Organizational Questions of Russian Social Democracy as well as The Russian Revolution of 1918. Although for many years the critique of Lenin by Rosa Luxemburg received little attention, in the modern day a great number of scholars in different fields have indicated renewed interest in Luxemburg’s writings and critiques. After giving a brief introduction of Both Lenin and Luxemburg, this essay will discuss in detail the differences and similarities, if any, that exist on the descriptions of “left-wing communism” by Lenin and Luxemburg. Vladimir ILych Lenin was born on the 10th of April the year 1870. Lenin was a Russian political theorist as well as a communist revolutionary who led the Russian SFSR in 1917. In the year 1922 he became the Russian Prime Minister, a position that he held until his death on the 21st of January 1924. Since he inclined to the Marxist political ideology Lenin contributed greatly to this philosophy; his contributions would later be referred to as Leninism. When Leninism was coupled with the economic model of Marxism the result was Marxism-Leninism. Lenin’s interest in left wing politics was aroused by his brother’s execution in the year 1887. After he was expelled from The University of Kazan for participating in anti-Tsarist rebellions, Lenin dedicated his time to pursuing a degree in Law and became a radical Marxist. Rosa Luxemburg was born on the 5th of March 1971, approximately one year after Lenin. Despite being originally Polish-Jewish, Rosa was naturalized to become a national of Germany. Luxemburg was not only an economist but also a revolutionary socialist, philosopher and Marxist theorist. She was a member of the Communist Party of Germany as well as the Social democratic Party of Germany, Luxemburg would later on be killed by the Social Democratic political system in Germany and her body discarded in Landwehr Canal. Lenin’s theory on Vanguard party is easily divided into three different segments. Firstly, the working class is categorized into a number of strata; amongst these strata is the minority group of people and the majority-also referred to as the vanguard. Lenin describes the Vanguard minority as not only the genesis of creativity and innovative ideas, but also possessing the ability to lead the working class. The majority is thus described as lacking the leadership and innovative traits that the minority does. Consequently, the minority is tasked with the responsibility of leading the majority who must remain together to ensure that all authority remains with them. In his 1903 pamphlet referred to as What Is To Be Done, Lenin argued that it was impossible for the laborers to have had any knowledge of Social-Democratic and that it must have been brought to them from outside sources. This assertion was based on the belief that the working class is only able to come up with consciousness related to trade unions which enable them to fight their employers and force the government to endorse laws of labor that seem desirable to them. The Social Democracy duty in this sense would thus be to fight against impulsiveness so as to shift the attention of the working class from trade-unionist conflicts and lead them into embracing Social Democracy under the bourgeoisie . In Left Wing Communism, An Infantile Disorder Lenin claims that there is no such dichotomy like the totalitarianism of a party or class through the party since he perceives the party as any other political party. In fact Lenin asserts that “Everyone knows that the masses are divided into classes….. that usually, and in the majority of cases, at least in modern civilized countries, classes are led by political parties; that political parties, as a general rule, are directed by more or less stable groups composed of the most authoritative, influential and experienced members, who are elected to the most responsible position and are called leaders. All this is elementary” . In the year 1904 Lenin drafted yet another pamphlet referred to as One Step Forward, Two Steps Back. In this pamphlet Lenin offered a different description of the party from the one in What Is To Be Done. In this pamphlet Lenin argued that there are discrepancies amongst the members of the working class as demonstrated by their levels of activity and that such differences must be considered when determining the working class’s members’ level of proximity to the party. Lenin also indicated that in timed of emergency such as war, the entire working class is expected to follow the leadership of the Social Democratic Party. Through out the period prior to revolution, Lenin was completely inclined towards the perspective that the minority has a special quality for creativity as well as the ability to lead that the majority group lacks. It is this perception that Luxemburg is opposed to in the critique that she conducts of the pamphlet One Step Forward, Two Steps Back. According to Luxemburg, the idea by Lenin that centralism was a characteristic of the minority group or the central committee only implies that the central committee is the only ingenious part of the Social Democratic Party; consequently the file and hierarchy tend to be assigned a passive role. Despite the fact that he never quite elucidated the precise characteristic of the minority’s special ability, this notion is still a fundament principle of Leninism. In her critiques of Lenin it remains very clear that Luxemburg’s perception of the party incline towards the original Marxist principles. This critique of Lenin is actually founded upon the Marxist concepts. The major point of disagreement between Lenin and Luxemburg is the fact that Luxemburg does not agree with Lenin when he strays away from the descriptions of the class revolution by Karl Marx. In addition to this Luxemburg criticizes Lenin fro the distinction that he draws between the Vanguard and the entirety of the class. Luxemburg argued that “The fact is, however, that Social Democracy is not bound up with the organization of the working classes; rather it is the very movement of the working class . . . For this reason, the construction of centralism in Social Democracy, as Lenin desires, on the basis of these two principles . . . the sharp separation of the organized kernel of the party from the surrounding milieu seems to us a mechanistic transfer of organizational principles of the Blanquistic movement of conspiratorial groups to the Social-Democratic movement of the working masses” . Luxemburg is convinced that the revolution and movement of class must be a democratic process. Luxemburg claims that “We have never been idol-worshippers of formal democracy”. Luxemburg is convinced that the Social Democratic Party is not aimed at eliminating democracy but responding to social inequality and lack of democracy through party mechanism . Luxemburg claims that “But the remedy which Trotsky and Lenin have found, the elimination of democracy as such, is worse than the disease it is supposed to cure; for it stops up the very living source from which alone can come the correction of all the innate shortcomings of soviet institutions. That source is the active, untrammeled, energetic political life of the broadest masses”. This implies Luxemburg is well aware of the importance of identify the functions of revolution. In her critiques of Lenin, Luxemburg is able to describe Lenin’s position of Left Wing Communism as one sided and inclined towards the outlining of the opportunism presented by trade associations. Luxemburg also criticized Lenin for ignoring the fact that apart from trade association opportunism, many in the majority working class, such as Lenin himself, characterized intellectual opportunism. The critique of Rosa Luxemburg on Lenin would not be complete without mentioning the German Social Democratic Party and the manner in which Luxemburg made use of it to offer an option to the perspective of proletarian party offered by Lenin. The first principle of this party, according to Luxemburg is the fact that it had to be different from other parties before it since unlike the previous parties, the German Social Democratic Party relied on the actions of the majority class. This party was formed for the intentions of communicating the interests of the class It is important to note that it was not only Luxemburg who was opposed to Lenin’s perceptions. Peter Kropotkin was against Lenin from the very beginning since he perceived the philosophy of Bolshevik as being more antagonistic towards anarchism in comparison to the “Bourgeois Liberalism”. Kropotkin perceives Bolshevik as being separated from democratic socialism by the very same phenomena that set it apart from democratic socialism. The differences between Lenin and Kropotkin is the “ the monumental divergence between a philosophy of the free spirit, many of whose insights will still play a part in building a better life, and a philosophy of institutional subjugation which, for all its present vaunted power, is doomed to oblivion” . Kropotkin is famously renowned for his quote about Lenin stating “Lenin is not comparable to any revolutionary figure in history. Revolutionaries have ideals. Lenin had none”. In conclusion, it is clear why Lenin is one of the most controversial persons in the deliberations about Marxism. Despite the controversy that surrounds him, it is almost impossible to deliberate upon Marxism without referring to his contributions; consequently, most debates on Marxism are either inclined towards anti-Leninist or Leninist propensities. This paper has contrasted and compared the perspectives on left wing communism by Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg. As already indicated, the Left Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder by Lenin highlighted the “superiority” of the minority class among the workers since the minority were described as having creativity and leadership traits. Despite the criticisms that have been directed to Lenin by Luxemburg and Kropotkin, it remains unarguably true that Lenin had a clear perception of the problems in Russia and how they could be resolved. The only way to resolve the problems was for the workers to own the “means of production”. Nevertheless, since he was a member of the ruling political system Lenin was vested with the responsibility of making practical judgments that revealed of the military, political and financial issues in Russia. Although the criticisms of Lenin by Luxemburg are indeed weighty, those by Kropotkin would be better applied to smaller nations whose manufacturing and production foundations are dissimilar to those of Russia. All the same, neither Lenin nor Luxemburg were right or wrong in all their different arguments since each reflected an important part of the realities in their time. Work Cited David, Shub: Kropotkin and Lenin, Russian Review, Vol. 12 No. 4 (1953), pp. 227 Lenin, Vladimir, II’ich: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: The Crisis in Our Party, Progress Publishers (1969) 230 pages Katzer, Julius: Vladimir Lenin’s Left Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder, Progress Publishers, Collected Works, Vol. 31, pp. 17-118 Luxemburg, Rosa: The Russian Revolution, New York (1940), p. Luxemburg, Rosa: Selected Political Writings, Ed. Dick Howard, New York and London, (1971), pp. 290