The End of TSAR, er Lenin
(The State and Revolution, Pt. 5)
We’ve come to the end of Lenin’s The State and Revolution. I wish I could say it’s been fun but, well, nope. Can’t say it and won’t say it. However, it has been necessary. As we’ve seen, so much of what good ole Vladimir said back in 1917 has become political dogma. No, not in Russia or Europe (although it has) but here. It slowly crept in over the years but, if you look at the 2016 presidential campaign, it is there front and center. We heard major candidates talking about redistribution of wealth. We heard the calls for the oppressed to rise up against their oppressors. There was more but it’s too early and I haven’t had enough coffee to be able to rehash them without feeling sick – and very, very angry.
There is one good thing, if you can call it that, to what we heard in the last election. Those candidates spouting Lenin at us are the types of socialists he hated. They are the type he condemned in the last full chapter of TSAR: the ones who cherry-picked portions of Marx and Engels and talked the talk but didn’t walk the walk. (Not that he necessarily did either, but he was different. He was the only one who knew what Marx and Engels meant and he was the first to tell you.)
He’d have lined Bernie up with all the bourgeois because Sanders wasn’t advocating the violent overthrow of the government. He’d have laughed at Clinton for being inept and nothing more than the bourgeois she condemned. The very fact they are part of the government he knew had to be violently destroyed would have painted a huge target on their backs in his eyes.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t undo the damage they, and those like them, have done with their rhetoric. They spout all these ideas that appear so wonderful in sound bite but that are, in reality, untenable and a foundation of socialist philosophy (universal healthcare, free college education for all, etc.) I know very few people who won’t admit the healthcare industry needs major reform and who wouldn’t like medical care to be affordable for all. However, putting it in the hands of the government – which universal healthcare eventually does – is a very bad idea because it will eventually put healthcare decisions in the hands of politicians. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my treatment being approved or disapproved based on what the national budget needs might be.
It is the same with education. When we start relying totally on the government for not just our primary education but for college education as well, we give the government our tacit agreement to let it tell us what we should study and what our career field should be. All those homeschoolers would get to say goodbye to their education preference. We would all be using government resources and following the government line. Nope, not something I want for my kids or grandkids. How about you?
But, whether Bernie and company are what Lenin would have called true socialists or not, they have learned from the “master”. Lenin knew what to say to not only agitate the masses but to connect with them. He recognized their concerns and played on them. Obama was a master at doing the same thing. Bernie, for some reason, was as well in the last election cycle – at least when it came to young voters and those not yet able to vote. What the liberals didn’t expect was for Trump to be able to do so as well. He simply spoke to a different part of the populace.
So, this last chapter of TSAR is Lenin’s condemnation of several well-known socialists of his time. As he’d done previously in TSAR, he took their words and then interpreted, twisted and mangled them to fit his own narrative. Specifically, pointing out how they had sold out Marx and Engels and weren’t real socialists and that, under their plans, socialism and then communism would never occur. In other words, he was setting himself up as the lone voice of not just knowledge but power when it came to socialism/communism.
He phrased it in terms of the “question of the relation of both the state to the social revolution and the social revolution to the state, like the question of revolution generally, engaged the minds of the leading theoreticians and publicists of the Second International (1889– 1914) very little.” (TSAR, p. 93) He accused them of actually evading the question or, worse, failing to notice the question. This, he wrote, led to “an evasiveness which worked to the advantage of opportunism and fostered it – resulted in a distortion of Marxism and in its complete vulgarization.” (TSAR, p. 93)
What follows are several pages of carefully chosen quotes from the so-called offending interpretations of Marx and Engels. Then Lenin jumps in with his interpretation and condemnation. “Marx, as we have seen, meant that the working class must smash, break or shatter (Sprengung, explosion, being the expression used by Engels) the entire state machine.” (TSAR, p. 96) This declaration by Lenin is based on his interpretation that others believed the socialist revolution could be successful without an “excessive revolutionary zeal when seizing power.” According to Lenin, “[a] cruder and more hideous distortion of Marx’s idea is inconceivable.” (TSAR, p. 96)
So, we’re back to his Lenin-Hulk smash, grab power! Ideology.
“The point is not about opposition or about political struggle in general but revolution.” (TSAR, p. 104) In other words, political opposition or struggle, the use of the existing political system to gain your objectives is no longer enough. In fact, according to Lenin, it won’t work. The political system – and remember, that also includes our infrastructure and corporate structure – must be overthrown and those in power must be destroyed. Don’t forget how he spent the majority of TSAR discussing how the proletariat revolution would become the proletariat dictatorship until all opposition was destroyed. Only once everyone walked and thought in lockstep with the leadership could the socialist revolution continue toward first true socialism and then communism.
“Revolution consists in the proletariat destroying the ‘apparatus of administration’ and the whole state machine, replacing it with a new one consisting of the armed workers.”(TSAR, p. 104)
The whole state machine.
Think about that. As much as we sometimes rail against our government, or aspects of it, this is all-inclusive. We’re not just talking about on the federal level but all the way down to the local level. Note also how Lenin never really answers how the gaps that occur will be filled. I’m not so much worried about in the government. There will always be politicians, even if they are good little socialists (looks in Bernie’s direction). But what about in the corporate world? Despite everything Lenin says about the workers coming together to run their factories, we know how well that went over, don’t we? The worker on the floor doesn’t know how to run the shipping department or inventory or do the books. So, managers are needed but where are they to come from?
The answer’s simple and one Lenin didn’t want anyone looking too closely at. They came from the new oppressing class and their sole job was to oppress everyone – bourgeois or proletariat alike, anyone who didn’t produce at the proper level and who didn’t believe in the correct way.
Revolution consists in the proletariat destroying the ‘apparatus of administration’ and the whole state machine, replacing it with a new one consisting of the armed workers. (TSAR, p. 104)
If that statement alone doesn’t bring you up short and make you think twice about how wonderful socialism sounds, it should. A true “people’s state” wouldn’t require armed workers. It would be cooperative. It would be supportive. It would NOT be oppressive. Yet that is exactly what Lenin says it will be, at least to begin. Note, too, he initially says this beginning phase is a passing one and then, as TSAR progresses, he hedges and hedges even more about how long it will take. Look at history to see it is such a slow progression from armed revolution to proletariat dictatorship to socialist society that 100 years wasn’t enough to move out of the dictatorship phase. In fact, if possible, we are seeing that phase entrenching itself as if it doesn’t want to erode into a true socialistic state.
Gee, who would have thought? (Yes, sarcasm is high here.)
Revolution consists not in the new class commanding and governing with the aid of the old state machine but in its smashing this machine and commanding and governing with the aid of a new machine. (TSAR, p. 104)
So, rise up, brothers and sisters, listen to my promises. Just don’t look too closely when my armed forces place their boots on your necks after you’ve helped us overthrow the government. Trust us, brothers and sisters, you’ll learn to love it. It is for your own good. I promise. Some day – possibly in a far away galaxy – the true socialist state will evolve and you will have been the first step toward it. Honor your role and listen to your betters. We are one, brothers and sisters, but some of us are more equal than others. Bow down to the new state and apparatchik. I – we – know what is best, comrades.
But we shall move on to a break with these traitors to socialism and shall fight for the complete destruction of the old state machine in order that the armed proletariat itself should become the government. (TSAR, p. 107)
Wait, what? The proletariat becomes the government? So, he confirms one class replaces the other as the ruler. Hmmm.
This isn’t new. He’s been saying this throughout the book. However, he usually didn’t say it quite as openly or without a great deal of lawyer double-speak. It is a reminder that this book was never meant to be a handbook for the average person and especially not the average Russian in 1917. Think about how those without college educations would have reacted if Lenin spoke this plainly when stirring them into revolutionary fervor. The faults in his plan, in his view, would have been much easier to spot. Would it have stopped what had already started – and the revolution had been coming for decades – probably not. But it might have altered some of what happened in late 1917 and early 1918 when it comes to the Russian/Soviet governments.
But we shall move on to a break with the opportunists; and the entire conscious proletariat will be with us in the fight not for a ‘shifting of the relation of forces’ but for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, for the destruction of bourgeois parliamentarianism, for a democratic republic after the type of the Commune or a republic of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, for the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat. (TSAR, p. 108)
“Conscious proletariat”, “democratic republic” and “the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat”. Riiight.
What part of “dictatorship” is hard to believe? And what part of human nature not wanting to give up power is so hard to understand?
This is why it is so important we, as conservatives and as libertarians, understand what Lenin and others promoting socialism and communism wrote and what they meant. We have to have a knowledge of history and an understanding of why things happened. We have to be able to not only discuss our beliefs but be able to point to source material to show the fallacies in our opposition’s point of view. If we don’t, we have zero chance of convincing them they need to rethink their position.
Note, I’m not saying we have to go in and tell them they are wrong. That is the surest way of getting them to dig their heels in and refuse to consider anything we say. No, we have to take a page out of Lenin’s book and convince them. That starts with them looking at their position and possibly recognizing there are weaknesses to it. We point out alternatives. We show them current or historical trends that undermine their points. In short, we avoid the knee-jerk reaction and we force them to do the one thing they haven’t been doing – think.
We have a perfect opportunity to do so right now. The Bernites of the world want us to sink into socialism because they feel it is the perfect world. We’d all be beautiful and equal and sit around the fire and sing Kumbaya while manna falls from the sky because none of us would know how to operate the factories or plow the fields, etc. Yet, they avoid looking at the reality of what socialism and communism have done to those countries that have “embraced” it.
For those with any memory or knowledge of the Cold War, the Soviet Union was the great evil. Even if Stalin was long in his grave by the time we entered school, the threat of the Soviet Union was very real. The media today paints Russia as the greatest threat to our nation after our president. How often have we heard Putin – another Vladimir (maybe it’s something about the name. Think about it. Vlad the Impaler, Vladimir Lenin, Vladimir Putin) is doing everything he can to corrupt our elections, etc? (And nothing about how Obama tried the same with one of our own allies.) Yet, that same media and those politicians advocate the socialist principles Putin represents.
But be prepared. The other side will say Putin isn’t a true socialist/communist. Then they’ll point out they want the “good parts” of socialism but not the bad. They want universal healthcare and government paid education. But they have no clue how to pay for these – or what the potential consequences of them are. They will tell you with one breath they want less government and then, in the next, they are willing to turn their health and education over to Big Brother.
So, ask the hard questions but have your own answers – and facts – ready. Hit them in the face with not only the reality of where socialism and communism are in today’s world when it comes to that “withering away” of the state. Make them think about what their heroes – Lenin, Marx and Engels, among others – actually said. Don’t argue and don’t make them dig their heels in. Remember, these folks are the ones who want safe spaces and who don’t understand the concept of consequences. We have to educate them and, even if we fail where they are concerned, we have our children and grandchildren to worry about. We educate them and we give them the best weapon of all – the ability to think for themselves and recognize bull shit when they see or hear it.
Lenin was, if nothing else, a master manipulator. But he was one in the right place at the right time, at least for his own purposes. Our challenge today is not that we will face another Lenin, especially not here in the US. It is that the socialist ideas have been slowly infiltrating our government for years. Our job – our duty – is to recognize them, stop the slide and repair the damage to our country. I’m willing and ready to take up the challenge. Are you?
[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]