Or how Lenin claims to talk economics but really only talks revolution and oppression.
Talking to Sarah as I prepared for this post, I made the comment that not only to I hate Lenin but that much of what he writes in The State and Revolution reminds me about this past presidential election cycle. There’s much about how the rich oppress and ignore the masses. There’s more about how the masses, the “majority” must rise up and overthrow the minority, the rich bourgeois. There’s the obligatory lip-service to redistribution of wealth, although the means differ from what we heard from Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. The path might have been described differently, but the goal was the same – to overthrow “the state” and bring into existence a socialist society.
Of course, Clinton and Sanders and all those like them fail to understand one simple truth when it comes to Lenin. He’d laugh at them, lumping them in with the Mensheviks and all others who weren’t card carrying members of the Bolsheviks.
But let’s see how Lenin tries to convince the world, or at least his little part of the world in 1917, how communism would inevitably grow first from capitalism and then through socialism into the great society Marx and Engels proclaimed. More than that, let’s check his interpretation of not only the so-called economy behind the “slow erosion of the state” but also the way human nature must change in the process.
And pardon me while I laugh hysterically. I actually managed to write that with a straight face. Maybe I’ve read too much of this shite already. VBEG.
The first question Lenin asks is, “On the basis of what data is it possible to pose the question of the future development of future communism?” (TSAR, p. 76) His response is that “the basis of the fact that it originates in capitalism, that it develops historically from capitalism, that it is the result of the action of a social force to which capitalism has given birth.) (TSAR, p. 76) Acting on the assumption, which he lays at the feet of Marx, that “contemporary society” is capitalist, he views it as inevitable that communism will follow.
Now, there’s nothing new here. Marx and Engels, not to mention others who followed after them, said basically the same thing. Hell’s bells, we’ve seen the same from those who came after Lenin. What most of them fail to mention is something Lenin didn’t shy away from. It is not just that “the state” will wither away but that there is no set time for it to happen. In fact, if you fast-forward to the end of this particular chapter, you find these little gems that boil down the basics of Lenin’s philosophy:
Until such time as the ‘higher’ phase of communism arrives, the socialists demand the strictest control by society and by the state over the measure of labour and the measure of consumption; but this control must start with the expropriation of the capitalists, with control exercised by the workers over the capitalists, and must be exercised not by a state of bureaucrats but by a state of armed workers. . . (TSAR, pg 87)
So, in the first phase of socialism, that which follows the initial revolution, Lenin advocates replacing one oppressive regime with another. Not only are those proletariats and farmers who have allegedly been so badly oppressed by the bourgeois not gaining the equality they’d been promised, they will find themselves regulated in much the same ways as before. Of course, he puts a good shine on it all by saying the oppression will begin with the “expropriation of the capitalists”. After all, who doesn’t want to see the rich stripped of their wealth and power, right? (yes, the irony was strong in that statement)
Here’s the first thing to really note – this control will be by a “state of armed workers”. Except it hasn’t been, not historically. Sure, the initial revolution might be by these so-called “armed workers” but once their workers government is in place, they are disarmed. After all, if you are going to start oppressing your own allies, you don’t want them to have the ability to revolt against you as they did against the previous regime. We’ve seen this happen in Russia and in other so-called socialist or communist countries time and time again over the last century.
Given these economic prerequisites it is fully possible, after the overthrow of the capitalists and the bureaucrats, to proceed immediately, overnight, to replace them in the functions of control of production and distribution, in the functions of keeping account of labour and products by the armed workers, by the armed population as a whole. . . (TSAR, pg 87)
Possible yes. But by whom? The answer, if you look at it historically, is by new managers and supervisors, new people who will make sure you work up to the levels set by the “people’s state” and woe unto you if you fail. Not that Lenin will admit that – or does he?
The whole of society will have become a single office and a single factory with equality of labour and equality of pay. But this ‘factory’ discipline, which the proletariat, after defeating the capitalists, after overthrowing the exploiters, will extend to the whole of society, is by no means our ideal or our ultimate goal. Rather it is a step for the radical purging of society of all the infamies and abominations of capitalist exploitation and for further progress. . . (TSAR, p 90)
And here’s the difference between what we hear from the likes of Bernie-bots and Clinton followers. They try to blind us with the glories of socialism by talking about the equality that will result. We’ll be paid the same for work not matter what our gender or color, etc. The government will make sure we all have healthcare and education. Whether they believe this is the ultimate goal of their version of socialism or just hoping we don’t do our homework and study the foundation documents of the philosophy, I don’t know. But, just in case Lenin is right and socialism is just a step on the way to a true communist society, we need to be prepared and we need to fight to stop the slide down this slippery slope our country has been on for the last 100 years.
Yes, 100 years or more. Going back to the early 20th Century, you can see some of the philosophic traces of socialism creeping into our government. Much of that came during the Depression and the policies Roosevelt instituted them. The slide increased in the latter half of the 20th Century. What do we need to do to make sure no further damage is done to our government and our way of life? We start by educating ourselves and our children. Then we start by speaking out and by standing up. The latter is exactly what Lenin and his ilk convinced their followers to do. So let’s take a page out of their own book.
For when all have learned to administer and really independently administer social production, independently keep accounts and exercise control over the idlers, the gentlefolk, the swindlers and other such ‘guardians of the traditions of capitalism’, then any escape from this popular accounting and control will inevitably become so incredibly difficult, such a rare exception, and will probably be accompanied by so swift and serious a punishment (for the armed workers are practical people and not sentimental little intellectuals, and they will scarcely allow anyone to mess around with them) that the necessity to observe the uncomplicated basic rules of all human intercourse will very soon become a habit.
And then the door will be opened wide for the transition from the first phase of communist society towards its higher phase, and simultaneously towards the complete withering away of the state. (TSAR, pp 91-92)
So, even as this worker’s paradise grows into fruition, Lenin admits there will be a need to suppress any who don’t fall into line. You must believe, comrade, or face “swift and serious a punishment”. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like a government or society I want to be part of.
In his discussion of how capitalism will evolve into socialism, Lenin has the following to say: Modern wage slaves, as a result of capitalist exploitation, are so crushed by want and poverty that ‘they have nothing to do with democracy’, ‘nothing to do with politics’, that the majority of the population in the ordinary peaceful course of events is excluded from participation in the life of public politics. (TSAR, p 78) Doesn’t this sound like the talk of disenfranchisement we heard from the likes of Bernie and his followers during his campaign? Switch “modern wage slaves” with “women” or “persons of color” and doesn’t it sound like Hillary? They, as well as many other liberals running for office, continue to hit on how minorities are not allowed to take part in politics in this country, how they aren’t adequately represented. I’ll admit, gerrymandering still exists but not to the extent they’d like us to believe. They point to Voter ID laws as a way to keep the poor or homeless from voting. In doing so, they ignore how easy most states have made it to get a recognized form of ID, knowing there are those who can’t afford a driver’s license, etc. That sort of admission flies against the narrative and, if nothing else, they’ve learned how to push the narrative at the feet of the master, Vladimir Lenin.
[A] progressive development, i.e. towards communism, occurs through the dictatorship of the proletariat and cannot occur otherwise, for the resistance of the exploiter-capitalists cannot be broken by anyone else or by any other path. . . And the dictatorship of the proletariat, . . . cannot lead simply to an expansion of democracy. . . becomes democratism for the poor, democratism for the people and not democratism for the rich, the dictatorship of the proletariat imposes a series of exclusions from freedom in relation to the oppressors, the exploiters, the capitalists. We must suppress them in order to free humanity from wage slavery; their resistance must be crushed by force: it is clear that where there is suppression, where there is coercion, there is no freedom and no democracy. (TSAR, pp 79-80)
Dictatorship of the proletariat. . .exclusions from freedom. . .we must suppress them. . .crushed by force. He advocates this and then, in the next sentences says there can be no freedom and no democracy when those conditions are present. How in hell is that supposed to work?
That’s simple. You see, the proletariat dictatorship is just the first step toward the glories of communism. Anyone who doesn’t recognize that forgets about the slow withering of the state. It’s gonna take time, comrade. You gotta have patience, comrade. Give us your work and your loyalty, comrade. Trust us, comrade. All will be well in the end – which might never come.
You see, it’s not enough to crush the state, you have to erase all the capitalists and then make sure there are no more classes. Then and only then is it possible to even start talking about true freedom.
Of course, what do you do about human nature in all this? How do you handle those who are self-starters and who want to push themselves and produce more? What about those who are lazy or who resent being told what to do? That’s easy – they comply with the proletariat dictatorship or they face being crushed the same way the bourgeois was. Think about it. You’ll have a state of Stepford comrades. Won’t that be fun?
And only then will democracy begin to wither away because of the simple fact that, relieved of capitalist slavery, of countless horrors, savageries, absurdities and infamies of capitalist exploitation, people will gradually become accustomed to observing the elementary rules of social intercourse that have been known for ages and repeated for thousands of years in all copybooks – and to observing them without force, without compulsion, without subordination, without the special apparatus for compulsion which is called the state. (TSAR, p. 80)
So, democracy – or the state – hasn’t even begun to wither away during the proletariat dictatorship. But it is during this time the new state will enforce – and force – everyone to observe “the elementary rules of social intercourse. . . without force, without compulsion . . . .” So, we’ll force you to act a certain way until you are so beaten down you no longer resist, no matter how many generations it takes.
Here’s the million dollar question. While the proletariat dictatorship is doing all this, who is keeping those in power in check? No one, because they haven’t reached that advanced state of “social intercourse” that no one thinks about personal gain, etc. And that, my friends, it the fatal flaw with Lenin’s argument. In fact, with every argument for socialism or the ideal of communism. Human nature is not such that we will stop fighting to survive. We are selfish – or can be. We will fight to protect those who are dear to us. We are corruptible. In other words, we are not perfect, and perfection is what a true socialist society would require. Perfection not only in the masses but in those holding power during the years and possibly centuries or more it takes to reach that point in our evolution.
Economically, not much changes during this first phase of the path toward the withering of the state. Oh, the people in charge change but there is still taxation. They just don’t call it that.
The means of production are no longer the private property of individuals. The means of production belong to the whole of society. Every member of society, performing a certain part of the socially necessary work, receives a certificate from society to the effect that he has done such and such an amount of work. With this certificate he receives from the public store of articles of consumption a corresponding quantity of products. Consequently, after a deduction is made of the amount of labour which goes to the public fund, every worker receives from society as much as he has given to it. (TSAR, p. 83)
First, Lenin is smart enough to admit this isn’t equality – not yet at any rate. Under this new proletariat dictatorship, you work for society. You are paid according to how much work you do and that is how much you are paid for. Of course, before you then have to give your bit back to the “public fund”. That amount is – and I know you’re surprised by this – determined by the dictatorship. So, once more, the government is taking from you and you have no voice in the matter. If you object, you face being crushed just as the bourgeois were.
Here is probably one of the biggest lies of socialism and communism: the exploitation of man by man will have become impossible because it will be impossible to seize the means of production, the factories, machines, land and so on as private property. (TSAR, p. 84) There are so many other ways to exploit another, all you have to do is know how to manipulate someone emotionally or intimidate them physically. Or, as with the proletariat dictatorship, be in a position of power where you hold life or death over someone’s head – or over the heads of their family. Can we all say Josef Stalin? This “defect”, as Marx calls it, is supposedly only temporary but can the country survive long enough to pass into the next phase of socialism and then into communism?
It is clear, the more you read TSAR or the more you read the underlying documents, that socialism and the communism that is to follow it are pipe dreams of deluded men. Lenin took advantage of social problems within Russia to grab power. He was an opportunist who came in and decried and denounced the socialist who had been in Russia during the Revolution and who took power. He accused them of not being true socialists and yet what happened after he took power? Or, more precisely, after his successors took power? The state did not wither. Capitalism didn’t die – it moved underground with the state’s approval (as long as the right palms were greased). Russia did not move toward some enlightened state but, instead, became one of the worst dictatorships in history. And it’s not alone.
There are two more chapters left in TSAR – and, yes, I love the irony of the initials of the book forming the title of the ruler the socialists rebelled against. I think I’m going to try to combine them into a single post next time. Right now, I’m looking at doing Economic Facts and Fallacies by Thomas Sowell next. Of course, after TSAR, I might need something I can snark – probably do, to be honest. In that case, I could do either Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House by Donna Brazile or Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff. Do you guys have any preferences?
You can find the previous entries to this series of posts here, here and here.
[For raising the tone of this blog — ATH is culture! — and helping me with the exposing of the roots of the current mess — in her case with more facts! — if you decide to send the woman a drink– And her Amazon author page is here -SAH]