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

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Why Leninism and Bolshevism Are Not the Same

The essay closely investigates and questions the assumptions that Leninist theory is more or less a consistent whole, which must be accepted or rejected in its entirety, and that Bolshevik policy under Tsarism was the direct result of Leninist theory—that Bolshevism and Leninism are synonyms. It tries to determine the position of Lenin’s theory in its historical-materialist context, concentrating on his method of analysis and his theories of proletarian consciousness and the revolutionary party. It then deduces some important internal inconsistencies in Lenin’s methodology and organisational theory, and attempts to prove that Bolshevik practice was in no way Leninist. What then follows is a brief formulation of some consequences.

Historically, in the debate on Leninism1 three controversial positions have usually been taken up. Some claim that Leninism proved its usefulness in the Russian October Revolution and that the same model should, therefore, also be applied elsewhere; others propose that Leninism was suited to the Russian circumstances at the beginning of the 20th century, but not to present day conditions in other countries; finally, yet another group thinks that, as early as in the pre-revolutionary situation, Leninism carried within itself the seeds of the later Stalinist degeneration and should, therefore, be rejected in all circumstances.

These three positions appear to differ widely from each other. Even so, they have two assumptions in common: that Leninist theory is more or less a consistent whole, which must be accepted or rejected in its entirety; and that Bolshevik policy under Tsarism was the direct result of Leninist theory—that Bolshevism and Leninism are synonyms. In this article, I want to make a closer investigation of both of these assumptions. To do so, I shall try to determine the position of Lenin’s theory in its historical-materialist context, concentrating on his method of analysis and his theories of proletarian consciousness and the revolutionary party. After that I hope to deduce some important internal inconsistencies in Lenin’s methodology and organisational theory and finally I shall attempt to prove that Bolshevik practice was in no way Leninist. Having thus criticised the two premises of the contemporary Leninism debate, I shall briefly formulate some consequences.

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Updated On : 3rd Nov, 2017
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