Thursday, February 18, 2010

What is Leninism?

Robert at Angry Bear draws an analogy between "Leninism" and the Republican party:
First let me define Leninism. To me the key feature of Leninism is that Lenin declared the party to be the highest good. Thus acts were to be judged as pro-party or anti-party. In fact the very same acts were good or bad depending on whether they were done by the party or some other organization. Claims of fact were judged as pro-party or anti party. People were told not to be selfish and to choose between “your truth and the party’s truth.” Events were evaluated as good for the party or bad for the party hence “The worse it is, the better it is.” Most of all, the party demanded absolute obedience -- a Leninist level of discipline.
Now, I've read a fair bit of Lenin's work, but my study is hardly exhaustive and Lenin was a prolific writer.

Robert's definition of "Leninism" does not seem consistent with my general impression, but I could well be wrong. On the other hand, while those who post at Angry Bear seem like serious, competent scholars, even the best of us can make mistakes and take things for granted. So I'm looking for primary source material that would confirm or undermine Robert's definition.

So far, one commenter has directed my attention to Once Again On The Trade Unions, The Current Situation and the Mistakes of Trotsky and Buhkarin (1921) and identified a relevant quotation:
Everyone knows that big disagreements sometimes grow out of minute differences, which may at first appear to be altogether insignificant. A slight cut or scratch, of the kind everyone has had scores of in the course of his life, may become very dangerous and even fatal if it festers and if blood poisoning sets in. This may happen in any kind of conflict, even a purely personal one. This also happens in politics. [emphasis original]

Any difference, even an insignificant one, may become politically dangerous if it has a chance to grow into a split, and I mean the kind of split that will shake and destroy the whole political edifice, or lead, to use Comrade Bukharin’s simile, to a crash.
This quotation, however, does not seem to support Robert's contention, especially considering the emphasis that Lenin puts on the conditional. Lenin supports at least Trotsky's right to speak:
Under the rules of formal democracy, Trotsky had a right to come out with a factional platform even against the whole of the Central Committee. That is indisputable. What is also indisputable is that the Central Committee had endorsed this formal right by its decision on freedom of discussion adopted on December 24, 1920. [emphasis original]
On the other hand, Lenin also sees a danger in Trotsky's tactics without regard to substance, asking the rhetorical question:
Can it be denied that, even if Trotsky’s “new tasks and methods” were as sound as they are in fact unsound (of which later), his very approach would be damaging to himself, the Party, the trade union movement, the training of millions of trade union members and the Republic?
All in all, though, this piece looks like a routine and unremarkable political dispute as might arise within any organization focused on achieving an objective in reality.

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