Why anti-socialists talk about Lenin even more than socialists

horiz-long grey

About the author
 RAMIN MAZAHERI, Senior Correspondent & Contributing Editor, Dispatch from Paris • Ramin is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television.
RAMIN MAZAHERI—The great thing about the internet today is that – despite the 2017 wave of Google-led censorship and Russophobia and the seeming end of net neutrality in the US – the underground has become quite above ground to a once-unimaginable degree; the main problem now is apathy, not the inability to become less ignorant. Lenin’s “genius” is that he refused to ignore the experience, will and desire of the average Person – such “genius” is available to us all and must be used daily.

 Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

If YOU don't share this, who will? Break the system's disinformation machine. Share!
  • 8
  • 1

9 thoughts on “Why anti-socialists talk about Lenin even more than socialists

  1. Ramin Mazaheri on Lenin as civil servant
    This fine article by Ramin Mazaheri and basis for a chapter in his book in the works on the Russian Revolution is for me both enlightening and at the same time unsettling and disturbing. It turns upside down what seemed given truths: the indispensable and primary role of leadership in the successful revolution. Mazaheri maintains that Lenin was simply a civil servant who responded to the demands of the people, the 99% of those times:
    “If it had not been Lenin there would have been someone else to heed the People’s call, because the Russian Revolution was a mass event … and it could not have been stopped, despite the repeated efforts of many Bolsheviks.”
    Now, I personally am fascinated by this revolutionary interpretation of the Russian Revolution. At the same time I remain less than 100% convinced of what amounts to a re-dimensioning of the Left’s heroic image of Vladimir UIich Ulyanov- or Lenin -as the fashioner and creator of the greatest revolution of modern times.
    “… the peasants were in total revolt, the soldiers were in total mutiny, the workers were mobilised – THEY summoned Lenin, not the other way around.”
    If Mazaheri is right, the self-declared leadership role the best part of the Western intelligentsia believes in can be thrown out the window onto the garbage pile of intellectual history. Leadership is not what it is cracked up to be. In this new interpretation of the Russian Revolution, leadership is largely parasitic. Political leaders become opportunists. And in this interpretation Lenin is a puppet who lets himself be modeled by popular demand. That is, by the demands of an illiterate peasantry whose demands are somehow magically common. I don’t know if that could truly have been true in Russia of the 19th and early 20th centuries, but they most certainly are demands of the 99% people in the West today: Especially in the USA whose government does nothing for its people and instead enslaves it more and more each day.
    I was particularly struck by Mazaheri’s new look at Trotsky, his intimations of a re-dimensioning also of Trotsky’s ugly figure as a traitor of the revolution to the point that Trotsky is synonymous with Judas. “If Trotsky means the Bolsheviks won over the peasantry by simply being diligent civil servants after the sharecroppers handed them power, then he is correct: all the Bolsheviks really did was put an official seal on what was already accomplished. If he means anything else – like the Bolsheviks had to convince or persuade or instruct the farmers accept socialism…that is incorrect, because the sharecroppers knew what they wanted, if they didn’t have fancy names for it.”
    Yet we know that also the Left concurs that, “Trotsky’s idea of universal revolution is one of the very few taboo subjects in the West – the only way they can deal with him is to pretend he never existed.”

  2. This is a complex and more than thought-provoking article, this is a hand grenade tossed almost cavalierly into the comfortable parlour where long-accepted assumptions by both bourgeois and non-bourgeois historians of the Russian revolution coalesce on some major points, even if they disagree on many of the details.

    For all its tremendous power, I remain hesitant to accept M Mazaheri’s thesis. As Mr Stewart so lucidly points, the author is reducing Lenin (and all concept of leadership value as we see in him, Castro, Mao, Ho, etc.) to merely a capacity of near infinite (magical?) “channeling” of the masses’ unerring perception of the revolutionary moment, a personality that discharges leadership by simply mirroring opportunistically the meandering of the masses on the march to a new order.
    In this, at best, M Mazaheri may be advancing his own revolutionary thesis; at worst he is going in circles, in an elegant tautology, because as we know or should know by now, the great leader per force must be able to interpret correctly the historical moment of what is possible and not possible as perceived in the balance of forces and disposition of the masses, and then and only then provide the deciding insight. Obviously without the masses “being there”, there can be no leadership of any kind worth mentioning, as such great leaders would remain anonymous.

    Thus, according to Mr Mazaheri, if I interpret him correctly, a lot of previously reasonable assumptions are false and we must accept that:

    • an amorphous and semi-politically conscious and semi— or non—literate historical mass of people can be more clear and correct about the tactics and strategies of revolution than a far more educated, disciplined and class conscious group of leaders;

    • that cogent, well structured knowledge about anything is of less intrinsic value in a huge and complex struggle such as revolution and the reading of history than a far less educated and disciplined approach that simply substitutes a thousand heads using spontaneous perceptions to meld something of a united action front against a supremely well entrenched enemy.

    By embracing these positions, reeking of epistemological subversion (if I understand M Mazaheri correctly), he is upending the role of the masses to the level of “magical spontaneism”, an anarchist’s wet dream.

    My own reading of history, in Russia, Vietnam, France, and elsewhere is probably more prudent. I believe that the lessons of successful and failed revolutions, and proto-revolutions, show us that in almost all cases, those who succeed best are those who manage to meld the role of the leader with the role of the masses, making them into a dynamic unity, in which the legitimacy and quality of power issue from a fluid continuum in which the leader(s) and the masses occupy the two natural poles.

    I must close by granting that M Mazaheri is correct when he says that it is the historical moment that gives rise to the leadership, again, one of those almost axiomatic things, since if the circumstances of terrible oppression and misrule did not exist there would be little incentive for anyone to think of overthrowing the established order. I think some call this the theory of immanent leadesrship.

    D.W. Jenkins

  3. Read this essay 3 times and can’t make my mind up. Both sides seem to have a lot going for them. Like looking at something from both ends of a funnel: same reality, different perception!

  4. How can a leaderless revolution ever succeed? This doesn’t make sense!
    Am I missing something here?

  5. Oh, I entirely agree with the author, even though it seems that humans tend to form their societies on a pyramidical pattern as there is always a leader at the top whether male or female, with gradations in responsibility and power from there on down. And as with the Russian revolution so it was with the French one, whereby a leader like Robespierre only emerged after most of the work was done.

    Not only that but one should be aware of the former Russian army whose collapse of command paved the way further towards the socialist coup. In fact, the breakdown of the army command during the Vietnam war should teach people what the establishment feared. They counteracted as is understood by creating a so-called volunteer army where the poor are recruited by many promises of college funds and economic advancement.

    I have always maintained a thorough distrust of the ’left’ establishment to lead, despite opposite viewpoints that the people need leaders to teach them revolution. What a conceit! Only those whose immediate existence is threatened by the status quo can feel and know what needs to be done and make no mistake, they are not fooled even with the extreme propaganda indoctrinations like today in the US. The ivory tower left is only talking to each other, like autistic children and even the many liberal young know instinctively that it is only they who can deconstruct the prevailing societal imbalances.

    That this has yet not taken place is a sign of the strength of capitalism as it is practiced in the US, which still produces the goods for much of the public, but with a great hiatus in social services, college costs and so on. While the Trump agenda is very deleterious to the welfare of much of the nation, his utter disdain (from a business standpoint however) for the nomenclature got him elected. That is what the neo-liberalists cannot forgive and what keeps him in power with a growing stock market and the army as support (he is a Republican, i.e. not a Democrat, the war party, in cleverly knowing where power rests).

    The more the US middle classes sink into a proletariat and this is already far advanced even though they may not yet fully realize it, the faster a rebellion will come. And it will wash away much of the cackling media and the supercilious members of congress. What will remain are people’s councils and local forms of government as the Federal one will break down (at this time the population is better informed and educated than the former Russian peasant). With it all aggression will be abandoned and maybe then after the revolt leaders will emerge (not one dictator or a handler). It is in fact the end of older conceptions for change.

  6. The history of all countries shows that the working class exclusively by its own effort is able to develop only trade-union consciousness. (Vladimir Lenin). Which is underestimating the forces that brought him to power.

  7. Can Mr. Rochat show us a single genuine revolution made by trade unions, without the benefit of a vanguard party? If so, I’d like to know. It would be wonderful.

    Please share your knowledge on this important field.
    Thank you.

    M. Thorez

  8. I personally consider “spontaneous revolution” almost oxymoronic”. Spontaneous uprisings, revolts, rebellions, yes ,as say the Pugacehv uprising in Russia or the textile strikes that swept the South in the USA in the 1920s and 30s. But a successful completed revolution requires leadership from start to completion (if the revolution is ever complete in the lives of its perpetrators and organizers. Just that leaderes must be in sync with the revolutionary forces, as Lenin actually was or at least quickly became.

  9. Many thanks for the kind words on my article and the great comments, everybody.

    I think what the Russian Revolution, and other successful ones, prove is that it takes a heckuva lot more than just a village – it takes the combined effort of nearly the whole nation to modernise politically with a revolution. Thankfully, we have gotten back to the idea of class warfare after a two decade hiatus, only, with the emergence of the 99% idea. From my reading of Russia and Iran, Cuba and China, it’s that a huge chunk of the 99% was really involved demanded change over a very, very long struggle. It’s great to idolise Lenin, who was amazing, or “Mr. Dynamo” Mehdi Ben Barka who organised the Tricontental Conference, or other leaders, but I think Iran has it right in that there are murals up of everyday soldiers (martyrs) all over their city streets – it was the People who won the war and saved the Revolution (and who demanded it). Fidel was right in that his dying wish was that there be no statutes, busts, or things named after him – it’s all about the power of the People, and not the individual.

    And by putting the role of the People in its primary role, we see that their combined efforts are far, far greater than any one leader. So if we can remind people of our power as a 99% class – what can stop us? What can possibly be implemented without our consent? Or our apathy….

    I’m not sure that the intelligentsia’s leadership is “parasitic” – that is, however, true for those faux-intelligentsia who deny the People’s will. The great leaders, are like Khomeini or Ho Chi Minh – they lived simple lives and lived to serve, not to rule. And that’s very admirable to me. Khomeini ate two meals a day and slept on a cot in a simple apartment. Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso – possibly the last socialist revolution of the 1980s – died owning a fridge, $500 and a couple guitars. This relative monasticism is the opposite of Barry Obama, who just got $500k for a short speech in Paris. Lenin insisted on workman’s wages for parliamentarians because those who want money should NOT be in politics.

    I do think that this book does upend the idea that the ‘common person’ is unfeeling and unknowing regarding the political struggle. I talk to everyday people all the time, and they are often more lucid than I am (a professional intelligentsia). The demonisation of Trumpers as all rabid racists and inbred idiots is another example of this.

    Avoiding the pyramidal structure is the goal of socialism, no? That means devolving power as much as possible to the intelligent person-next-door – they know what to do, they just have no power, agency or support (monetary, moral or political).

    I think we’re all aware of the polls which show that the average american, for example, is actually majority leftist…the problem is that this is ignored. Even with good “leaders” – they will be ignored; the system must be smashed and a new one set up. But the bigger problem is that they cannot even get a fair hearing in the mainstream media. This is why countries like the USSR, China, Iran, Cuba, etc. drastically control the press.

    To sum up – I would say that our role as intelligentsia and activists is simply to listen first and to inform second; not to lead, but to implement what we are being told what to do. The People know what is needed – maybe they need a bit more instruction to smooth out some since-time-immemorial reactionary ideological faults, but as a whole they want the things which are morally and politically correct: equality, time, space, money, peace. We don’t need Lenin to tell us that.

    But they did need Lenin to organise AFTER the Revolution was made – after the power was smashed. But organising, planning, polling – that’s a government bureaucrat, that’s all that is. And like Lenin said: immediate recall for those who do things on their own and against the interests of the People and their revolution.

    Yes, “rule by referendum” is not the best society, but it is a darn good one and computers/block chain has made that very close. But it is only If we take away the power of the MSM to misinform, obfuscate and mislead – only then will the People will not be misled into choosing war, inequality, hate, divisiveness, etc. Yes, I agree tho, a vanguard party to make sure the Revolution does not get led off the rails is necessary but mainly as a backstop, a fail-safe. I don’t think it’s the People who get led off the rails by greed, war, hate, etc. – it’s the leaders; it’s Blaise Campaore selling out and murdering his best friend Thomas Sankara, ruling as a pro-French puppet for 30 years, and then being exfiltrated by them in 2014 when the People rise up again.

    In 1917 the Russian People wanted an end to the war, most of all. Then they wanted an end to land, food and money inequality . Yes, there was a leadership class which lasted 50+ years which helped that, but the illiterate Russian sharecropped helped even more, cumulatively, I’d wager.

Comments are closed.