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Left-Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder Paperback – March 30, 2008
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About the Author
Vladimir Ilich Lenin (1870-1924) was the founder of the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks), inspirer and leader of Bolshevik Revolution (1917), and the architect, builder, and first head (1917-24) of the Soviet State. He was the founder of the organization known as Comintern (Communist International) and the posthumous source of "Leninism," the doctrine codified and conjoined with Marx's works by Lenin's successors to form Marxism-Leninism, which became the Communist worldview.
If the Bolshevik Revolution is - as some people have called it - the most significant political event of the 20th century, then Lenin must for good or ill be regarded as the century's most significant political leader. Not only in the scholarly circles of the former Soviet Union but even among many non-Communist scholars, he has been regarded as the greatest revolutionary leader and revolutionary statesman in history, as well as the greatest revolutionary thinker since Marx. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Two of the questions takes up are (1) should revolutionaries take part in trade unions with reactionary leaderships (on this I also recommend Lenin on trade unions (The Great heritage) and Trade Unions in the Epoch of Imperialist Decay (Featuring Trade Unions: Their Past, Present, and Future by Karl Marx)). And (2), should they run in elections and take part in bourgeois parliaments (see also Lenin as Election Campaign Manager (Merit) and The Bolsheviks in The Tsarist Duma - with an article by Lenin on The Work and Trial of the Bolshevik Group in the Duma, with intro by Em. Yaroslavsky).
It does not take up terrorism, since that was not an issue within the Communist Parties; as an introduction to that, let me recommend Marxism and Terrorism.
The struggle for socialism goes on but the Labour Traitors are nothing to do with it now. This remains an inspiring and instructive work.
The Death Agony of Capitalism
The Russian Revolution and after it the Comintern in the early heroic days, for the most part, drew the best and most militant layers of the working class and radical intellectuals to their defense. However, that is not the same as drawing experienced Bolsheviks to that defense. Many militants were anti-parliamentarian or anti-electoral in principle after the sorry experiences with the European social democracy. Others wanted to emulate the old heroic days of the Bolshevik underground party or create a minority, exclusive conspiratorial party. Still others wanted to abandon the reformist bureaucratically-led trade unions to their current leaderships, and so on. Lenin's polemic, and it nothing but a flat-out polemic against all kinds of misconceptions of the Bolshevik experience, cut across these erroneous ideas like a knife. His literary style may not appeal to today's audience but the political message still has considerable application today. At the time it was written no less a figure than James P. Cannon, a central leader of the American Communist Party, credited the pamphlet with straightening out that badly confused movement (Indeed, it seems every possible political problem Lenin argued against had some following in the American Party-in triplicate!). That alone makes it worth a look at.
I would like to highlight one point made by Lenin that has currency for leftists today, unfortunately. At the time it was written many (most) of the communist organizations adhering to the Comintern were little more than propaganda groups (including the American Party). Lenin suggested one of the ways to break out of that isolation was a tactic of critical support to the still large and influential social democratic organizations at election time. In his apt expression- to support those organizations like a rope supports a hanging man. However, as part of my political experiences in America around election time I have run into any number of `socialists' and `communists' who have turned Lenin's concept on its head. How? By arguing that militants needed to `critically support' the Democratic Party (who else, right?) as an application of the Leninist criterion for critical support. No, a thousand times no. Lenin's specific example was the reformist British Labor Party, a party at that time (and to a lesser extent today) solidly based on the trade unions- organizations of the working class and no other. The Democratic Party in America was then , is now and will always be a capitalist party. Yes, the labor bureaucrats and ordinary workers support it, finance it, drool over it but in no way is it a labor party. That is the class difference which even sincere militants have broken their teeth on for at least the last seventy years. And that, dear reader, is another reason why it worthwhile to take a peek at this book.
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