ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Did Lenin Distort Marx?

Chattopadhyay's (EPW, 15 December 2012) impatient utopianism needs to be called into question. Lenin had a deep understanding of the ground reality of Russia in the immediate aftermath of the revolution, and in this context, there was no question of moving towards statelessness during the period of transition to socialism.

Paresh Chattopadhyay’s “Lenin Reads Marx on Socialism: A Brief Note” (EPW, 15 December 2012) raises certain fundamental issues relevant to the practice of Marxism today, by going back to the text of Marx’s actual work and exposing certain “deviations” from his real ideas in Leninist practice. While such an academic approach that turns Marx’s works into scriptures might conceivably work in discursive forays into such realms as fantasies of sexual liberation, it is quite inappropriate and misleading in an area where union of theory and practice is of critical importance to transformation of society and emancipation of man’s social essence.

Lenin was applying Marx’s ideas to a country which did not embody the latter’s conception of conditions of socialist revolution (indeed, he had conceded towards the end of his life, when the bourgeoisie seem to have consolidated their hold in the countries of western Europe in the face of growing working-class militancy, that the Russian peasant commune might form the basis of a socialist society there only if the proletariat in western Europe succeeded in breaking the back of capitalism in their own countries). The immense difficulty faced by Lenin in building a road to socialism is explained by the rise and development of a capitalist sector with a tiny working class against a vast background of peasantry still immersed in the debilitating traditions of serfdom and spiritual servitude. That conscious, disciplined and dedicated working class was virtually decimated by the protracted civil war launched by reactionary elements like landlords backed by foreign capitalist powers, and regional anarchist leaders leading ragtag armies. The dire situation was aggravated by the weakness of the Russian liberal bourgeoisie who could not have established a sound bourgeois democratic state in spite of Menshevik illusions and the still extant strength of feudal elements that were keen to restore a feudal regime in alliance with capitalists.

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