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Lenin, Stalin - On People's Democracy
LENIN ON INSURRECTION AND REVOLUTIONARY DEMOCRACY
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Among ML Revolutionaries, eclectic memorization of theories and revolutionary phrase making is another byproduct of ML theory not being able to be applied correctly to the practice in any given “concrete" situations.
The fundamental reason for deducing wrong approach and drawing wrong conclusion from the right theories is that the "theories" remain abstract and thus prevents formulating any concrete strategy for the specific conditions and situation, in a way that can be understood by the masses.
Marxism is related to the essence of thing not to the forms- yet not denying the importance of forms. It is not the form of revolution, name of party, or of power that is important, but the class essence. To call a power structure as “People’s Power”, “People’s Democracy”, or “Labor Democracy” does not determine its class essence. A power called “People’s Democracy” could be the power of working class, yet another called “Worker’s democracy” could well be a bourgeois power. What determines is the hegemony of class that holds the power. Naming may have tactical reasons both for Socialists and Bourgeoisie. Stalin’s comment on the subject of setting up a “Labor Party” in Bulgaria may be a good example for this. Stalin says;"You must unite the working class and the other working strata on the basis of a minimal programme, and later there will be time for maximal program. Peasants consider the worker’s party as alien, but they will look at labor party as their own. I strongly recommend that you do that. A labor party or worker-peasant party is very suitable for a country like Bulgaria from the point of view of the country’s international position, that would only make your tasks easier for you. In character the party will be communist, but it will have a broader basis and a convenient mask for the present period. “Stalin, The Diaries of Dimitrov, September 2, 1946The importance of the name used may be considered in conjunction with its ability to embrace larger masses on the path of revolutionary struggle and ensure their support, and to maintain power. Decision depends on the concrete assessment of concrete situation and class relations at that given time for Marxists proceed from the principle that " a Marxist should not leave the real ground in the analysis of inter-class relations." Lenin, Letters on Tactics
The group that will quickly embrace the slogan of the "People's Democracy", obviously, will be the reformists, petty bourgeois who still have great hopes, illusions for the bourgeois parliament and fear of revolution. Because, according to them, "People's Democracy" will provide democratic rights and liberties within the existing system, and its purpose will be limited to the protection and "improvement" of the existing system. Their kin, left-opportunists however, hiding behind far-left slogans, will label the “People’s Democracy” as reformist.
Having said that, the approach to the terms should not be in their literal meaning, taken from dictionary, encyclopedia, or from a concocted meaning, but in its historical context and historical, Marxist Leninist theoretical use of the terms.
If not done so, conclusions reached will have nothing to do with the ABCs of Marxism Leninism as one “theoretician !!” of a left!! magazine states; “Revolutionary Democracy is the reaction of middle bourgeoisie.“ Proletarian revolution has an unbreakable connection with the democratic revolution and the dictatorship of workers-peasants in most of the countries of the world. It is not the “reaction of middle bourgeois”, but as Lenin puts it; “Revolutionary democracy, i.e., in the main, the proletariat, and Social-Democracy”…“By revolutionary democracy is meant the consistent and firm democratic currents that accept the whole democratic programme of Social-Democracy, do not hold back from any revolutionary measures, but lack the clear Social-Democratic class consciousness”. So Revolutionary democracy has nothing to do with the “middle bourgeoisie” but it is mainly the alliance of the socialists with the revolutionary democrat currents.
Obviously, without some exceptions stated below, general use of "People's Democracy" has a strategic content that somehow involves the popular-elections and especially the utilization of parliament in connection with the insurrection for “revolutionary democracy as a bridge”-which is our main subject to discuss. As the quotes will show, historically the term “People’s Democracy “is used for countries who waged anti- fascist and anti-imperialist wars in where the bourgeoisie escaped, in others became a part or supporter of the new type of proletarian power in the form of “People’s Democracy”, in others a dictatorship of proletariat and peasants, while in some, an alliance between the anti-imperialist bourgeoisie, peasants and workers. Each varied in class content.
On January 27, 1918 a revolution in Finland began in response to a call from the leaders of the Social-Democratic Party of Finland, deposed bourgeois government and placed power in the hands of the workers. On January 29 a revolutionary government of Finland was set up in the shape of the Council of People's Representatives.” Lenin mentioning Finland in his speech at Extraordinary Seventh Congress of the R.C.P.(B.) said:“Because we are standing on the shoulders of the Paris Commune and the many years of development of German Social-Democracy, we have conditions that enable us to see clearly what we are doing in creating Soviet power. Despite all the crudity and lack of discipline that exist in the Soviets—this is a survival of the petty-bourgeois nature of our country—despite all that the new type of state has been created by the masses of the people. It has been functioning for months and not weeks, and not in one city, but throughout a tremendous country, populated by several nations. This type of Soviet power has shown its value since it has spread to Finland, a country that is different in every respect, where there are no Soviets but where there is, at any rate, a new type of power, proletarian power.”Lenin’s conclusion that the Soviets were not the only form of the dictatorship of the proletariat was subsequently fully confirmed. After the Second World War a new form of dictatorship of the proletariat arose in a number of countries of Europe and Asia. This was called “people’s democracy”, which reflected the distinctive development of socialist revolution at a time when imperialism had been weakened and the balance of forces had tilted in favour of socialism”
Explaining the specificity of this era, Cominform states; “The defeat of fascist Germany and militarist Japan as a result of the world-historic victory of the Soviet Union in World War II, the rise of the countries of people’s democracy and the weakening of the forces of world imperialism constituted most important factors stimulating a new powerful upsurge of the national-liberation struggle in the dependent countries and in the colonies and aggravating the crisis of the entire colonial system of imperialism.“Cominform No. 2 (218), January 9, 1953 And as a result of “the smashing by the Soviet Army of fascist Germany and imperialist Japan in World War II further weakened the imperialist camp and gave a fresh impetus to the revolutionary struggle waged by the working class and to the national-liberation movement against imperialism. In a number of countries of Central and South-East Europe there was established the system of people’s democracy. In Asia there arose the Korean People’s Republic and the Democratic Republic of VietNam. “Cominform No. 9 (173), February 29, 1952
In this sense Bulgaria is an important example. At the end of the war, the Communists in Bulgaria seized the majority in parliament. Stalin explains this exception and that “People’s power” in this case was another form of dictatorship of the working class;
"The proletariat is known two forms of dictatorship. As the first of Marx and Engels in Paris he saw the Commune and argued, democratic Republic with a majority of the proletariat, the best form of proletarian dictatorship ... Lenin had the Soviet form suitable to our conditions formulated. Here, it was proved to be the easiest way to seize power in your country, where the power of the working class was seized, not from the insurrection, but from outside (Soviet Army), you can go back to the Marx and Engels model without the Soviet form. People's Democracy will play the role of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.
(In Bulgaria) The capitalists and the Landlords have fought against us for four years, and they have surrendered without war and fled. “Stalin, Dimitrov’s Diaries December 6, 1948
Explaining the context and the differences, Cominform states:
“It would be a transition to a non-capitalist power, or, to be more precise, to the socialist development of China, said Comrade Stalin. State power in China is not the dictatorship of the proletariat, and in this it differs from the state power in the European countries of People’s Democracy where this democracy fulfills the functions of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The dictatorship of the People’s Democracy in China is the state power of the People’s Democratic United Front of the working class, peasants, petty-bourgeoisie, national-bourgeoisie and other patriotic democratic elements based on the alliance of workers and peasants and led by the working class. The task of the People’s Democracy in China at this stage is to carry out agrarian reform, to consolidate the alliance of the working class and the peasantry, to draw into active political life hundreds of millions of people, economic rehabilitation, and industrialization of the country, to strengthen and broaden the foundation of public property, to restore and develop the economy, to raise the living standard of the working people and to effect the cultural revolution. The Central People’s Government of China is building up the defense of the country against imperialist aggression.” Cominform, September 29, 1950“In the People's Democracies historical successes in working class unity have also been won: united working class parties, united trade unions, united cooperatives, youth, women's and other organizations have been established.
This working-class unity has played a decisive role in the successes achieved in the economic and cultural advance in the People's Democracies, in securing the leading role of the working class in the State and in a radical improvement in the material welfare of the working masses.” Resolution adopted by the Meeting of the Cominform, November 1949
However, “The nature of the people’s democratic state power in China is defined by the conditions in this recently colonial country. At present the working people of China are not confronted directly with the task of building Socialism, the instrument of which is the dictatorship of the proletariat.” From “Cominform, September 29, 1950
Lenin was stressing the importance and yet making the distinction clearly in his speech at Extraordinary All- Russia Railwaymen’s Congress
“We have been openly and straightforwardly saying from the very start of the revolution—April 1917—that the Soviets were a much higher, a very much more perfect and purposeful form of democracy—a working people’s democracy—than the Constituent Assembly. The Constituent Assembly unites all classes, which means also the exploiter classes, the propertied classes, hence, the bourgeoisie and those who received their education at the expense of the people, at the expense of the exploited, and abandoned the people to join the capitalists, turning their knowledge, the greatest achievements of knowledge, into a tool for oppressing the people, and fighting the working classes. For our part we declare that when a revolution of the working and exploited classes breaks out, all power in the state goes to their organisation. This form of democracy is incomparably higher than the old one. No party invented the Soviets. You know very well that no party could have invented them. They were brought to life by the 1905 revolution.”Since Marxists proceed from the assessment of concrete conditions and situations and cannot leave the real ground in the analysis of inter-class relations, under current conditions speaking of “People’s Democracy” should not be taken the same as in its exceptional context but in the context of a “Revolutionary Democracy”, as a phase and a bridge to socialist revolution, with some possible exception, in all countries.
Studying the Russian history of revolution, Lenin’s writings and his foresight in “the principal stages in the History of Bolshevism” that the “"history has proven that in some very important problems of the proletarian revolution, all countries will inevitably have to do what Russia has done" , we can assume the dialectically connected, uninterrupted phases as; “insurrection -> revolutionary democracy” followed by “Revolutionary Democracy –> insurrection –> socialist revolution.”
Any “democracy “- with any prefix- as an end to itself, by itself is a deviation from Marxism Leninism, is the denial of Proletarian Dictatorship – Socialism. All the “democracy” - with any prefix- should be taken within the context of class and class power and whether it is aiming at socialist revolution or not.” In dealing with the idea of control and the question of when and by whom this control is to be affected,” says Lenin, “one must not for a single moment forget the class character of the modern state, which is merely an organisation of class rule. A similar class analysis should be applied to the concept “revolutionary democracy”, and this analysis should be based on the actual balance of social forces.” (P501)The concept should be used by Marxist Leninists with its class context distinctive from the reformists’ use. Clarifying that “Revolutionary Democracy” is not an invention but a phase between the capitalism and socialism that advanced by the revolution, Lenin states;
“what is this revolutionary democracy that people here speak so much about to conceal their utter misunderstanding and complete repudiation of it? To talk about revolutionary democracy at the All-Russia Congress of Soviets and obscure this institution’s character, its class composition and its role in the revolution… This is a type of state not invented by the Russians but advanced by the revolution because the revolution can win in no other way…. We are asked whether socialism can be introduced in Russia, and whether, generally speaking, radical changes can be made at once. That is all empty talk comrades. .. Nowhere in the world is there pure capitalism developing into pure socialism, nor can there be in wartime. But there is something in between, something new and unprecedented... If you want to talk of "revolutionary" democracy, then you must distinguish this concept from reformist democracy under a capitalist Ministry.” (P485)Let’s touch base on some of the basic aspects in light of our current world’s facts.
The importance of a bourgeois democratic system with a constituent assembly in countries where it does not exist.
Marxism Leninism must be dealt with in a dialectical unity and applied to the concrete conditions. The forms, means and methods of struggle and path to the revolution will differ in each country; where feudal or semi-feudal structure, and/or autocracy, fascism reigns will be different than where a bourgeois democratic state with constituent assembly reigns. And most importantly depends on the existence of the objective and subjective conditions of a country in any given time.
Lenin stressing the importance and making the comparison, in his article mentioned above in which he summarizes the main stages of the history of Bolshevism by saying; "history has proven that, in some very important problems of the proletarian revolution, all countries will inevitably have to do what Russia has done", finishes his writing as follows;
"" Despite views that are today often to be met with in Europe and America, the Bolsheviks began their victorious struggle against the parliamentary and (in fact) bourgeois republic and against the Mensheviks in a very cautious manner, and the preparations they made for it were by no means simple. At the beginning of the period mentioned, we did not call for the overthrow of the government but explained that it was impossible to overthrow it without first changing the composition and the temper of the Soviets. We did not proclaim a boycott of the bourgeois parliament, the Constituent Assembly, but said that a bourgeois republic with a Constituent Assembly would be better than a bourgeois republic without a Constituent Assembly, but that a “workers’ and peasants’ ” republic, a Soviet republic, would be better than any bourgeois-democratic, parliamentary republic. Without such thorough, circumspect and long preparations, we could not have achieved victory in October 1917, or have consolidated that victory.” (P94)And Lenin in his critique below, stresses the fact that the socialist revolution is not a single battle, but a period covering a series of battles over all sorts of problems and each must be formulated in a revolutionary way.
“From what Parabellum says, it appears that, in the name of the socialist revolution, he scornfully rejects a consistently revolutionary programme in the sphere of democracy. He is wrong to do so. The proletariat cannot be victorious except through democracy, i.e., by giving full effect to democracy and by linking with each step of its struggle democratic demands formulated in the most resolute terms. It is absurd to contrapose the socialist revolution and the revolutionary struggle against capitalism to a single problem of democracy…We must combine the revolutionary struggle against capitalism with a revolutionary programme and tactics on all democratic demands: a republic, a militia, the popular election of officials, equal rights for women, the self-determination of nations, etc. While capitalism exists, these demands—all of them—can only be accomplished as an exception, and even then, in an incomplete and distorted form. Basing ourselves on the democracy already achieved, and exposing its incompleteness under capitalism, we demand the overthrow of capitalism, the expropriation of the bourgeoisie, as a necessary basis both for the abolition of the poverty of the masses and for the complete and all-round institution of all democratic reforms. Some of these reforms will be started before the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, others in the course of that overthrow, and still others after it. The social revolution is not a single battle, but a period covering a series of battles over all sorts of problems of economic and democratic reform, which are consummated only by the expropriation of the bourgeoisie. It is for the sake of this final aim that we must formulate every one of our democratic demands in a consistently revolutionary way. It is quite conceivable that the workers of some particular country will overthrow the bourgeoisie before even a single fundamental democratic reform has been fully achieved. It is, however, quite inconceivable that the proletariat, as a historical class, will be able to defeat the bourgeoisie, unless it is prepared for that by being educated in the spirit of the most consistent and resolutely revolutionary democracy.” (P426)In regard to the phases of revolution, as contrast to the left child disease, such as "revolution now", "revolution tomorrow ", "revolution or nothing", Lenin points out that the revolution requires certain processes, and the strategy must be determined concretely depending on the assessment of concrete conditions in this process. His words; " It is not enough to learn slogans by heart; one must also learn to judge the opportune moment to issue them"* demonstrates the necessity of assessments to be made based on the concrete facts. * Lenin, A caricature of Bolshevism
Looking at the Russian history of revolution and Lenin’s assessments, past and current history of the world, we can safely construe the fact that the bourgeoisie will never leave the power in a peaceful way, nor the revolution will be realized in one leap without any intermediate stages. Some may have to go through the toppling of autocracy, constituent assembly, revolutionary democracy and socialist revolution, others may go through revolutionary democracy followed by socialist revolution.
Especially for the undeveloped, dependent countries, Stalin and Lenin stresses the necessity of a democratic republic as a stage and importance of using parliament as a means:
Stalin;“Political freedom is best achieved in a democratic republic, of course, in the conditions of capitalism. For this reason, all the advocates of proletarian socialism must strive to establish a democratic republic as the best "bridge" to socialism.” Stalin, Anarchism or Socialism?Lenin;“How can one say that “parliamentarianism is politically obsolete”, when “millions” and “legions” of proletarians are not only still in favour of parliamentarianism in general but are downright “counter-revolutionary”!?" (P599)This, however, does not mean that Marxists Leninists see a democratic republic as an alternate to socialism but as an alternate in backward, autocratic countries where the objective and subjective conditions do not exist and where the laboring masses needed to be educated in the spirit of revolutionary democracy. In advanced capitalist countries, however, granting the conditions exist, the only alternative is socialism through insurrection – in some more than others, depending on the revolutionary situation, a phase of “revolutionary democracy” may be required.
As for most existing “parliaments” - if not all, the parliaments formed after the toppling of autocracy followed by an insurrection - unless lead by the ML and achieved the majority in it - will still be a “pigsty” of bourgeoisie.
As Lenin points out;
“Only the armed people, organised in a revolutionary army” says Lenin, “which has won over to its side all decent and honest elements in the tsar’s army, has overcome the tsar’s forces and substituted a provisional revolutionary government for the tsar’s autocratic government.
.... The slogan for all this agitation will be: insurrection, the immediate formation of combat squads and contingents of a revolutionary army, the overthrow of tsarist rule, and the establishment of a provisional revolutionary government which is to convene a popular constituent assembly.” (P166)And Characterizing the Duma he states;
“We have said that the State Duma is a mockery of popular representation. That is undoubtedly so from the standpoint of the theory of the sovereignty of the people.In present-day Russia we have before us three political theories, of whose significance we shall yet speak on more than one occasion. These are: 1) The theory of the tsar’s consultation with the people …… 2) The theory of an agreement between the tsar and the people... 3) The theory of the sovereignty of the people (the programme of Social-Democracy, as well as of revolutionary democracy in general).” (P166)In simple terms based on any given country’s concrete situation, if the majority of the masses still expects hope from the parliament, and they are at the same time counterrevolutionary, and where the autocracy reigns, efforts should be made at minimal to establish a “popular constituent assembly”, if it exists, or the subjective conditions are ripe, all the democratic opportunities, including the parliament should be utilized for the establishment of a “Revolutionary Democracy” as a bridge to the socialist revolution or if both objective and subjective conditions exist, directly to socialist revolution. At any given moment, the minimal and maximal goals should be set, phases are determined, not based on subjective hopes, wishes and expectations with revolutionary phrases, but based on the concrete assessment of concrete situation.
Can "People's Democracy" that sees the elections and the parliamentary as the only path be realistic?
First question should be; Can a majority be held in parliament with elections? Considering, particularly the technological advances and current technology, and those who owns and controls them, and their power in manipulating the minds, buying votes and other frauds in elections and imperialist interference to the elections and election results; to make such an argument would be childish.
Even if the majority in the parliament could be achieved, is there a possibility of turning it into a socialist parliament, socialist power? Can there be exceptions? Of course, as history shown, there may be exceptions, such as, MLs can take over the majority in parliament as a result of a regional war or as a result of an uprising against fascism. Marxist Leninists do not deny that there may be exceptions. But, let’s not forget, Marxists do not set their strategy and tactics based on expectations and exceptions, but on general rules. The strategy of organizing and taking power on the basis of general principles -fitting the given country and situation- does not endanger the seizure of power and holding on to the power in case of an exception, on the contrary it facilitates.
As an example of constituent assembly achieved through uprising within which carries another uprising as a phase, Lenin states;
“The Russian proletariat, however, is at present a minority of the population in Russia. It can become the great, overwhelming majority only if it combines with the mass of semi-proletarians, semi-proprietors, i.e., with the mass of the petty-bourgeois urban and rural poor. Such a composition of the social basis of the possible and desirable revolutionary-democratic dictatorship will, of course, affect the composition of the revolutionary government and inevitably lead to the participation, or even predominance, within it of the most heterogeneous representatives of revolutionary democracy. It would be extremely harmful to entertain any illusions on this score. If that windbag Trotsky now writes (unfortunately, side by side with Parvus) that “a Father Gapon could appear only once”, that “there is no room for a second Gapon”, he does so simply because he is a windbag. If there were no room in Russia for a second Gapon, there would be no room for a truly “great”, consummated democratic revolution.” (P146)As history has proven, in general, the majority in parliament can only be achieved in relation with an uprising, or multiple staged uprisings in different forms and levels in different countries, based on each specific condition.
The struggle for a revolutionary democracy and revolution can be waged through only legal means within the boundaries of the existing system is an illusion, a reformist deception.
While Lenin stresses the importance of legal work by saying "Don’t let a single hour of legal work slip by”, he warns not to sink into reformism;
"The party of the working class, without abandoning legal activity but never for a moment overrating it, must combine legal with illegal work, as it did in 1912–14." Lenin, Political Situation, four ThesisIncluding the struggle for a constitutional democracy, struggle for a Revolutionary Democracy and socialist revolution cannot be waged legal means only, for its success depends on some kind of insurrection, at varying degree which fundamentally could be organized illegally.
Let us first examine these questions after giving a synopsis of the concept of insurrection and Revolution.
The difference between Insurrection and Revolution
Lenin sees the armed insurrection as a special form of political struggle."A people's revolution," says Lenin, "cannot be timed in advance. An uprising can be, if those preparing it have influence among the masses and can correctly estimate the situation...” (P101)This interdependent two concepts are being used as an equated manner in general and in Turkey particular. Consequently, the concepts of “Revolution" and "Strategy" always remain to be "abstract”, vague, where neither the one who mentions and the one who hears can bring it down to a concrete footing in order to comprehend.
The uprising is a form of struggle and serves as a bridge that extends all the way to the realization of the Revolution. A revolution without uprising is unthinkable – always without denying the possibility of exceptions.
Democratic Struggle - Can there be a “People’s Democracy”, without an uprising?
If we look at the history, especially the recent historical events, it indicates that it is not possible to have a majority in parliament (for the revolutionary democracy) without the support of some kind of uprising. When Lenin criticized the Bundists in 1905, he said;"The formation of a constituent assembly without the aid of an uprising is an idea worthy only of bourgeois philistines, as even the comrades of the Bund realize " (P191)In his short essay entitled "Political Situation," Lenin explains that "The aim of the insurrection can only be to transfer power to the proletariat, supported by the poor peasants, with a view to putting our Party programme into effect." (P503)
An autocratic government can be toppled through an uprising or an election followed by an uprising, however that does not necessarily guarantee a majority in the parliament, or a “Revolutionary Democracy”.
Can the “People's Democracy” protect itself and be a bridge to Socialism without the uprising?
As Lenin emphasized above, parliament, as “People's Democracy” requires new legal and illegal organizations and activities to gain the majority, to protect, to consolidate and to ensure the transition bridge without interruption.
Just as an uprising would be the instrument of a parliament that would provide the majority of revolutionaries under the name of “popular power”, “Revolutionary Democracy”, the Revolutionary Parliament should be seen as a means of a new uprising to complete the bridge. In other words, the Power of "Revolutionary Democracy” - parliamentary bridge, form of struggle - cannot be seen as a final goal. From uprising to parliament, from parliament to (a new) uprising - the bridge should be seen as a continuous construction.
In evaluating the period in Russia, Lenin says;"" A provisional revolutionary government is an organ of insurrection...a provisional revolutionary government “emerging from a victorious popular insurrection”: both logic and historical experience show that it is possible to have provisional revolutionary governments as organs of insurrection which are far from victorious, or which are not completely victorious.” (P191)Lenin summarizes these words as: " a provisional revolutionary government does not only “emerge” from an uprising, but also directs it"
The history has proven that without the evaluation of the current concrete conditions, and on that basis determining concrete strategy, the abstract "revolution" and "revolution now" slogans have not served to the interests of revolutionary struggle, not helped to put its foot on the ground. Unlike Trotsky’s view (which will be dealt on separately) Revolution is not a military coup. It is very common these days to hear “Revolution Now”, “Either now or never”, “all or nothing” slogans from those who do not embrace and has no strong ties with the masses, and do nothing about it, yet spreading the vague illusion that the revolution will happen “spontaneously” or by some “supermen” from space in a miracle way. The fact is that not only revolution but insurrections that carry the movement to revolution requires the determined participation of masses and utilization of parliament at each stage -whether it be constituent or revolutionary democracy. As Lenin puts it;"" an uprising without the aid of a provisional revolutionary government can be neither an uprising of the whole people nor a victorious uprising. " (P191)In other words, insurrection is not only an important component of acquiring the power, but of safe-keeping and carrying it to the socialist revolution. And insurrection means masses.
Uprising conditions and preparation
Lenin, who speaks about the necessity of the revolutionaries to assess the conditions of struggle, examine the new forms of struggle, their practical validity and the possibility of realization, and followed by the education of the masses on this basis, says;
" If it is necessary to prepare for an uprising, such preparation must of necessity include the dissemination and explanation of slogans calling for an armed uprising of the people, the formation of a revolutionary army, and the establishment of a provisional revolutionary government.” (P191)On the one hand, "Spontaneity -ist”, for example In Turkey, and those who see the masses as “flock" that will tail the "heroes" on the other, promote abstract insurrection and revolution slogans and yet still lack the practice. Despite such catchy far-left slogans what actually promoted is passivity, submissive, hopeless, defeatist and self-destructive practices – which in return reflects on the masses as such and strengthens the parliamentary illusion. Such abstract slogans not reflecting the existing conditions deepens the isolation of revolutionary movements from the masses of people.
In his letter to the Central Committee of Lenin summarizes the three conditions of the insurrection:
"" To be successful, insurrection must rely not upon conspiracy and not upon a party, but upon the advanced class. That is the first point. Insurrection must rely upon a revolutionary upsurge of the people. That is the second point. Insurrection must rely upon that turning-point in the history of the growing revolution when the activity of the advanced ranks of the people is at its height, and when the vacillations in the ranks of the enemy and in the ranks of the weak, half-hearted and irresolute friends of the revolution are strongest. That is the third point. And these three conditions for raising the question of insurrection distinguish Marxism from Blanquism. “(P523)Lenin based on the given concrete conditions draws attention to two important points in the preparation of the Uprising;
“Firstly, the task of preparing an uprising must carry within it the pre-emergence of the uprising that is being prepared or almost prepared."Secondly, that the uprising now developing spontaneously is outstripping the purposeful and planned work we are doing to prepare it. We are unable now to restrain the insurrectionary outbreaks which occur here and there sporadically, disconnectedly, and spontaneously. So much the more are we in duty bound to speed up dissemination and explanation of all the political tasks and political requisites of a successful uprising.” (P191)It is clear that, the uprising and revolution cannot be put in practice with abstract, far-left-phrase making, and by movements isolated from the masses. On the contrary, it requires the determination of strategies on the basis of research and analysis. It carries a responsibility to the public; it is not a matter of gambling with the interests of the working people and their struggle with "abstract" slogans that has no feet in the ground. As Lenin puts it;
"We Marxists have always been proud that we determined the expediency of any form of struggle by a precise calculation of the mass forces and class relationships.We have said that an insurrection is not always expedient; unless the prerequisites exist among the masses, it is a gamble. " (P563)In the current conditions of autocracy in Turkey, for example, in respect to some of the objective conditions for the uprising the answer to the question would be "Yes" , however the concrete reality of unorganized masses and lack of a strong, uniting, united leadership, for the subjective conditions the answer will be "No". In fact, some of the conditions that make up the objective conditions in favor, reveal the political tasks for the unfavorable subjective conditions as urgent tasks in order to change it into favorable. The "Form" or “Name “is not decisive. A "Coalition", "Front", "Alliance" etc., any front formed on the basis of the "bridge" concept, can take up the historical responsibility and the task of developing the spontaneous upswings into a power of uprising. Bringing forward only the argument that the “elections will not bring any changes “and remaining passive will not change the subjective conditions favorably, visible practice and trials of building an active revolutionary-front will. As Lenin puts it;“Our job is to promote the democratic upswing, to foster the new revolutionary democracy that is growing in a new way in the new Russia. Unless it succeeds in gathering strength and winning in spite of the liberals, no “triumph” of the Progressists and the Cadets in the elections will bring about any serious change in the actual situation in Russia.....Our task is to organise the revolutionary democrats... intensify our revolutionary Social-Democratic work among the proletariat and strengthen the illegal Social-Democratic Labour Party.” (P402)One cannot compare and copy the “alliance” forms of a country where a strong vanguard leadership exists and apply to a country where there is not. Objective and subjective conditions vary in each given country, so the makeup of the “alliances” vary.
Concrete Conditions and Possible Alliances
Based on each objective and subjective concrete situation, each minimal, urgent aim will have varying alliances. There may be a situation where it can quickly and uninterruptedly transfer from the minimal to maximum, as there can be situation of a transfer from minimal to an intermediary phase. There is no one template that fits every country and every situation, each is determined by the conditions of its own particular - of course in connection with general.
Regardless of the type of alliances at any given condition, Stalin points out one important factor that is related to the importance of democratic tasks which is crucial for the success of any revolution. He says;” the question of the middle strata is undoubtedly one of the basic questions of the workers' revolution. The middle strata are the peasantry and the small urban working people. The oppressed nationalities, nine-tenths of whom consist of middle strata, should also be put in this category. As you see, these are the strata whose economic status puts them midway between the proletariat and the capitalist class. The relative importance of these strata is determined by two circumstances: firstly, these strata constitute the majority, or, at any rate, a large minority of the population of the existing states; secondly, they constitute the important reserves from which the capitalist class recruits its army against the proletariat. The proletariat cannot retain power unless it enjoys the sympathy and support of the middle strata, primarily of the peasantry, especially in a country like our Union of Republics. The proletariat cannot even seriously contemplate seizing power if these strata have not been at least neutralized, if they have not yet managed to break away from the capitalist class, and if the bulk of them still serve as the army of capital." Stalin, The October Revolution and the Question of the Middle StrataNever forgetting Stalin’s assessment, let’s give a synopsis of typical alliances at different conditions based on Lenin's assessments.
1- Alliances against Autocratic, fascists systemsAlliance against autocratic systems will be in varying character and inevitably embrace the widest strata of classes.Example of Turkey in particular, currently experiencing a period of unprecedented historical monopolization. Concerning the concrete situation, the alliances and the "benefiting from the contradictions within bourgeoisie, Lenin's assessment of the autocracy is important to mention;
"" the autocracy guarantees the bourgeoisie opportunities to employ the crudest forms of exploitation, but, on the other hand, places a thousand obstacles in the way of the extensive development of the productive forces and the spread of education; in this way it arouses against itself, not only the petty bourgeoisie, but at times even the big bourgeoisie." Lenin, “Political Agitation and “The Class Point of View”In relation with the "conditions of uprising", under the autocracy the discontent and opposition widen and reaches its peak in its maturation. Marxist Leninists cannot ignore and remain indifferent to this discontent and opposition with far-left phrase making with abstract "class point of view" that contradicts ML and makes them indifferent to the discontent among the masses.
In reference to autocracy, the opposition that the system will create and the attitude of the revolutionaries against it, Lenin summarizes the following in terms of "class perspective";
(......Continues in PDF)"" The autocracy guarantees (?) the bourgeoisie protection against socialism, but since the people are deprived of rights, this protection is necessarily transformed into a system of police outrages that rouse the indignation of the entire people. ......It is precisely the “class point of view” that makes it impermissible for a Social-Democrat to remain indifferent to the discontent and the protests. “Lenin, “Political Agitation and “The Class Point of View”
Struggle waged against the autocratic systems mostly covers the minimal, democratic tasks of socialist revolution, and thus will have varying alliances, especially the peasantry.
2- Alliances for “Revolutionary Democracy”
Alliances aiming for Revolutionary democracy, however, consists only the alliance with the revolutionary democrats - contingent upon the existence of a strong vanguard party.
Lenin explains as following;
(......Continues in PDF)“The first stage. The Social-Democrats make the theoretical preparations for the elections. The most prominent representatives of the Right and the Left wings express their views.... The Bolsheviks come out in favour of a purely Social-Democratic election list, but do not exclude agreements with the revolutionary democrats.” (P329)
The class content of alliance determines the class nature of a “democracy”. “the resolution should express this idea clearly instead of being so vague about it. “says Lenin” because the resolution reflects the fundamental error of the new Iskra, which is unable to distinguish between revolutionary democracy and liberal-monarchist democracy.” (P220)
3- Overall comparison of alliances in different phases
‘In our opinion, to ease the incredible burdens and miseries of the war and also to heal the terrible wounds the war has inflicted on the people, revolutionary democracy is needed… We alone can create such an apparatus, because we have class-conscious workers disciplined by long capitalist "schooling", workers who are capable of forming a workers' militia and of gradually expanding it into a militia embracing the whole people. The class-conscious workers must lead, but for the work of administration they can enlist the vast mass of the working and oppressed people.” (P542)(...... .Continues in PDF)4- Alliances of socialist revolution
Working class is alone when it comes to the socialist revolution. It is made up of proletarian and semi-proletarian masses lead by its vanguard communist party. The difference in the use of slogans “Soviet (to) Power” and “All power to the Soviets, also marked the class essence of alliances in both. Lenin explains this in different writings clearly.
(...... .Continues in PDF)
The use of terms should not be in their literal meaning, but in its historical context and historical, Marxist Leninist theoretical use of the terms. Historically, the concept of “People’s Democracy” refers to an exceptional form of “proletarian dictatorship” experienced in Eastern Europe. The use of “People’s Democracy” for the countries that has completed or in the process of completing the bourgeois democratic revolutions differs in class context. In order to make the distinction in class context, “the use of “Revolutionary Democracy” is more suitable since there is no more "Red Army" of Soviets.
History has proven that socialist revolution -with some exceptions - cannot be achieved in one leap. It has to go through intermediate phases one of which valid for most of the countries of the world is democratic phase or phases." It shows a failure to understand the significance of a revolutionary government as one of the greatest and finest “means” of effecting a political revolution" says Lenin. ”The paltry “liberalism” flaunted here by the Bund in emulation of Iskra (that is to say, we can manage without any government, even a provisional one!) is sheer anarchist liberalism.” Lenin, The Theory of Spontaneous GenerationWe are constantly experiencing the fact that imperialists have no trouble in creating a justification for the intervention in any country. The tactical alertness and suggestions of Lenin and especially of Stalin about "intervention" in connection with the " revolutions" are still valid today. Without active work in masses, active participation of large masses, speaking of revolutionary democracy and socialist revolution remains to be an illusion, mere phrase mongering of far-left Trotskyite variations.
"The Marxist solution to the problem of democracy, "says Lenin,” is for the proletariat to utilize all democratic institutions and aspirations in its class struggle against the bourgeoisie in order to prepare for its overthrow and assure its own victory. “(P430)
Each phase will have its own unique alliances totally contingent on the existing conditions, the balance of power, the existence or nonexistence of revolutionary situation and whether the minimal or maximal aim is on the agenda. One cannot copy from another country in which the conditions are different. One cannot copy the path to revolution, form of struggle means and methods – including the utilization of parliament - of a country where the subjective conditions are ripe, to another country where neither the subjective nor objective conditions exist. One most likely will reject the use of parliament in former, cannot reject in the latter, all of which is translated into the character of alliances for each.
While the character of alliances will be wide range for a struggle against an autocracy, it will be lesser for the democratic struggle, only the proletariat and revolutionary democrats for the struggle towards revolutionary democracy and proletariat alone for the socialist revolution.
The form of struggle and utilization of democratic institution isolated from the existing conditions cannot play a decisive role. What is important and decisive at any given time is that what it aims, under whose leadership and the class character of alliances formed. The same way, it is not the form of the revolution, but the class essence of it matters. Uprisings toward revolution may have different forms and alliances in accord with the specific conditions at given times. The concept of People’s power (whatever the name is given) should have a context that brings it from the abstract down to concrete, one that has its feet on the ground in a way that people comprehend. The road to “People's Power” goes through the phases of planned uprisings followed by an insurrection and forming a provincial revolutionary government – Revolutionary Democracy. That should not be taken as the final goal by itself- which is reformism - but as a means of transforming bridge through another uprising into socialist revolution. Based on Lenin's assessments and proven then, and especially now, uprising -> majority in parliament -> uprising -> socialist revolution seems to be the general path to follow without disregarding the existing conditions in particular.
E.A, 7-25 August 2018
Updated July 2020
Introduction - P6
The years of organizing (pre-1903)
The Tasks of the Russian Social-Democrats 1897 - P64The years of preparation for revolution (1903–05)
The Principal Stages in the History of Bolshevism – P94The years of revolution (1905–07)Two Tactics, February 14, 1905 – P101
The Convening of The Third, party Congress, February 2 8, 1905 -P113
General Plan of the Third Congress Decisions, February 1905 – P117
The Third Congress of the R.S.D.L.P., April 1905 – P125
Social-Democracy & the Provisional Revolutionary Government, April 1905 – P146
Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution, June-July 1905 – P156
The Boycott of the Bulygin Duma, & Insurrection, August 16, 1905 - P162
Oneness of the Tsar and the People, and of the People and the Tsar”, August 29, 1905 – P166
Social-Democracy’s Attitude Towards the Peasant Movement, September 14, 1905. – P178
The Theory of Spontaneous Generation, September 14, 1905 – P191
The Political Strike & the Street Fighting in Moscow, October 17, 1905 -P199
Tasks of Revolutionary Army Contingents, October 1905 – P210
On P. B. Axelrod’s Pamphlet, the People’s Duma and a Workers’ Congress, October 1905 – P216
The Latest in Iskra Tactics, or Mock Elections as a New Incentive to an Uprising, October 17, 1905 – P220
The Lessons of the Moscow Events, October 24, 1905 – P245
Petty-Bourgeois and Proletarian Socialism, November 7, 1905 – P258
The Bolshevik Resolution on the State Duma, May 9, 1906 – P269
The Peasant, or “Trudovik”, Group & the R.S.D.L.P., May 11, 1906 – P281
The Unsound Arguments of the “Non-Party” Boycotters, July 1, 1906 - P 286
Before the Storm, August 21, 1906 – P293
The Social-Democrats and Electoral Agreements, October 1906 – P300
The Social-Democratic Election Campaign in St. Petersburg, January 21, 1907 – P329
The Fifth Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, May 1907 – P341
Stalin, The Advanced Proletariat and the Fifth Party Congress, 1907 – P358
Stalin, Muddle..., April 10, 1907 – P362
The years of reaction (1907–10).A caricature of Bolshevism, April 4, 1909 – P365
The years of revival (1910–14)The Slogans and Organisation of Social-Democratic Work Inside and Outside the Duma, December 8, 1911 – P381
From the Camp of the Stolypin “Labour” Party, December 8, 1911 – P395
The Fourth Duma Election Campaign and the Tasks of the Revolutionary Social-Democrats, May 8, 1912 – P402
Democracy and Narodism in China, July 15, 1912 – P408
Report to the International Socialist Bureau, “Elections to the Fourth Duma”, November 20, 1912 – P417
The Struggle of Parties in China, April 28, 1913 – P423
The First Imperialist World War (1914–17)Karl Marx, A Brief Biographical Sketch with an Exposition of Marxism, 1914
The Revolutionary Proletariat and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination, October 16, 1915– P426
Reply to P. Kievsky (Y. Pyatakov) 1916 - P430
The second revolution in Russia (February- October 1917)A Regrettable Deviation from the Principles of Democracy, May 10, 1917 – P438
Petrograd City R.S.D.L.P.(B.) Conference, APRIL 14, 1917 – P441
Stealing a March on the Workers, May 6, 1917 – P444
War and Revolution, A Lecture Delivered May 14, 1917 – P448
A Strong Revolutionary Government, May 19, 1917 – P479
The Petty-Bourgeois Stand on the Question of Economic Disorganization, May 31, 1917 – P482
First All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, June 3–24, 1917 – P485
Speech Made at the First Petrograd Conference of Shop Committees May 31, 1917, June 16, 1917 – P 501
The Political Situation (Four Theses), July 10, 1917 – P503
Stalin, Outcome of the Moscow Conference, August 17, 1917 – P507
Stalin, The Conspiracy Continues, August 28, 1917 – P510
Stalin, The Second Wave, September 9, 1917 – P515
Marxism and Insurrection, A Letter to the Central Committee of the R.S.D.L.P.(B.), September 13, 1917 – P523
Heroes of Fraud & the Mistakes of the Bolsheviks, September 22, 1917 – P531
From Can the Bolsheviks Retain State Power? October 1917 – P542
The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It, October 1917 - P548
After revolution (October 1917 -on)Revolutionary Phrase mongering, February 21, 1918 – P563
Moscow Party Workers’ Meeting, November 27, 1918 – P578
Should We Participate in Bourgeois Parliaments? 1920 – P599