The case of the disappearing Lenin

Issue: 144

Kevin Corr and Gareth Jenkins

What, if anything, do modern day socialists have to learn from Lenin? Capitalism is mired in its deepest and longest crisis since the 1930s, producing bitter discontent that in places overflows into mass resistance and even revolutions. With Stalinism all but dead and traditional reformist parties offering little beyond doing austerity in a fairer manner, revolution from below would seem to be an idea whose time has at long last returned. Yet the working class seems “slow” to fulfil the role allotted it by classical Marxism. It has, perhaps, even “accepted” neoliberalism. Many activists do not believe that class or political parties define anti-systemic movements. The idea of working class revolution led by a revolutionary party to smash the state seems the quaint property of irrelevant groups unable to break out of the far-left ghetto.

This mood has affected the revolutionary left. For some the problem is the kind of party they used to believe in. Perhaps it is wrong to insist on a rigid distinction between “revolutionary” and “reformist”. Perhaps “mixing” the two can reconstruct a radical left able to fill the gap between a declining parliamentary reformism and a “Leninist” left that cannot grow. This seems to be what lies behind moves to create broad left parties that have the kind of appeal that, for example, Syriza (the Coalition of the Radical Left) in Greece and the Front de Gauche in France enjoy. A rapprochement with and re-evaluation of what the revolutionary left termed “left reformism” is therefore required.

This, then, is the context for taking seriously the intellectual debate initiated by the outstanding Canadian Marxist scholar, Lars Lih. Lih has shown that there is nothing in the real Lenin that can be made to justify the ideology of “Leninism” that was fabricated after Lenin’s death to justify the growing power of the Soviet bureaucracy. But his defence of Lenin has led him to interpret Lenin as making no fundamental contribution to Marxism—at least nothing that goes beyond the Marxism of the Second International (the International that united all Social Democratic1 parties before the First World War), as embodied in its most important representative thinker, Karl Kautsky.

What started as a debate primarily about the real meaning of Lenin’s 1902 pamphlet What Is To Be Done? (hereafter WITBD) has become a much broader debate about whether it is possible to deduce from his ideas and practice a distinct theory of revolutionary organisation—whether, in other words, it is possible to rescue a genuine Leninism from its Stalinist caricature. Lih has come to assert that, contrary to appearances, Lenin never broke fundamentally from Kautskyan Marxism. This claim, if true, poses a fundamental challenge to the revolutionary left’s view of Lenin as renewing a Marxist tradition that the Second International’s greatest theorist had emptied of revolutionary content.

This article argues against the “Kautskyanisation” of Lenin. Lenin may well have thought he was implementing the Marxism he took from Kautsky. The Bolsheviks may, initially, have seen themselves as part of the Social Democratic family (even if Tsarism made them slightly peculiar cousins). Yet they were the only significant social democratic Party not to collapse into chauvinism in the First World War and the only Social Democratic Party to lead a successful revolution. The explanation for this has to be, we shall argue, that though they may have shared (formally) the same Marxism as Kautsky, in practice they did not. This difference in practice resulted in a theoretical renewing of the Marxism that Kautsky had reduced to a dead letter. This renewing is the distinctive Leninism we want to defend. Assessing its validity in terms of what Lenin did, over and above what his language sometimes seems to indicate he thought he was doing, seems to us perfectly correct—even though we recognise that Lih would not agree.

Lenin rediscovered

In his Lenin Rediscovered: What is to be Done? in Context, Lih argues convincingly that mistranslations and misunderstandings2 of WITBD have produced a distorted picture of the revolutionary party Lenin wished to create. According to this Cold War “textbook interpretation”3 Lenin “feared the ‘spontaneous’ development of the workers’ movement”, demanded that the movement “be ‘diverted’ from its natural course” and that it “be directed ‘from without’ by…bourgeois revolutionary intellectuals”4 organised in a “hyper-centralised” party and “dedicated to conspiracy”.5 Thus WITBD was “a profound theoretical and organisational innovation, the charter document of Bolshevism, and the ultimate source of Stalinism”.6 On the contrary, Lih says, WITBD reflected mainstream European socialist thought in the period. Lenin, “a passionate advocate of political freedom”,7 believed that workers would “respond…with acceptance and enthusiasm”8 to the socialist “good news” message and that the Russian workers’ movement, like its Western counterparts, would play the same role in emancipating society.

Lih demystifies the formulations that most seem to favour in the textbook interpretation—Lenin’s contention that “class political consciousness can be brought to the workers only from without”.9 Lih proves decisively that when Lenin spoke of “spontaneity” and the need to “divert” it10 (to use the standard translations), we should not take this to mean that workers had to be forced by socialist intellectuals into taking the road to revolution against their natural bent. Rather we should understand this as meaning that the workers’ movement was capable of more than fighting for its own immediate interests, that it could become conscious of its power to transform society. Lenin was rephrasing Kautsky’s Erfurt Programme (the 1891 programme of the German Social Democratic Party) about the task of Social Democracy being “to lend this workers’ class struggle a conscious and united character and to point it towards its necessary goal”.11

Lenin himself wrote in 1899 in his Draft Programme of Our Party: “We are not in the least afraid to say that we want to imitate the Erfurt Programme”;12 and “when we so often hear opportunist and equivocal criticism of that programme, we consider it our duty to speak openly in its favour”.13 In other words, Lenin appealed to Kautsky to give authority to his own battle against the Russian “economist” version of revisionism: the ideology that “systematically restricts the worker movement to defending its sectional interests”.14

Lih’s detailed rebuttal of the textbook interpretation was widely, and rightly, welcomed on the revolutionary left.15 However, Lih’s target was not only the textbook interpretation. In his sights was also what he called the “activist interpretation”16 over what he saw as its negative attitude towards Kautsky. For the activist interpretation, there is an intrinsic difficulty in the phrase Lenin took from Kautsky (about the relationship between “spontaneity” and “consciousness”), irrespective of whether it has been misused in the textbook interpretation. The danger is of a one-sidedness that comes from understanding socialist theory as something formed separately from workers’ practice (and then introduced into the workers’ movement). As John Molyneux argues, the truth of socialist theory “must be intimately related to, and influenced by and based upon the activity of the working class”.17 What is problematic about Kautsky’s formulation (one that separates consciousness from spontaneity) is that it risks incorporating an elitist view of the party’s relationship to the class.

For the activist interpretation, this one-sidedness may not have mattered while the emphasis had been on steering against kowtowing to spontaneity (the theme of WITBD). But it did matter when revolution approached in 1905. The context was now very different. Hard on the heels of Russian military defeat by Japan, the social and political crisis was itself having a profoundly revolutionising effect on workers. Now the spontaneity of the rising movement had to be brought to the party: the party stalwarts needed to be “taught” by the workers rather than, as the Kautskyan formulation suggested, the other way round. The structures of the party previously needed to resist accommodation to economism were now a hindrance. This was at the heart of the debate at the 1905 April Congress between Lenin and the “committee men”, which Lenin lost. Returning to the theme in November that year, Lenin made it very clear that “a sudden influx of large numbers of non-Social-Democrats” would not mean that “the party would be dissolved among the masses” (which had been his argument in WITBD against the economists). The renewal of a militant worker intelligentsia in the party would be the much more likely outcome of this more ideologically driven wave of spontaneous class struggle. Now, he emphasised, “the heroic proletariat has proved by deeds its readiness to fight, and its ability to fight…in a purely Social-Democratic [ie revolutionary] spirit… The working class is instinctively, spontaneously Social-Democratic”.18

This activist interpretation has been roundly condemned by Lih. The “activist writers”, Lih says, “talk as if they knew Lenin’s beliefs better than he did himself”; he dismisses the idea of Lenin “bending the stick” as “the activist tradition’s favourite device for explaining away anomalies”. He criticises Molyneux for presupposing that Lenin “remained completely unaware that he diverged in fundamental ways from Kautsky”, despite deep familiarity with his writings. “I am not sure”, he adds ironically, “whether we are supposed to explain this by Kautsky’s deceitfulness, Lenin’s inability to understand what he read, or Lenin’s unawareness of his own beliefs”.19 This “ends up making Lenin look like a rather incompetent and incoherent leader”, and Cliff is similarly criticised for giving an unattractive picture of Lenin as an exaggerated stick-bender.20

Yet “stick-bending”—or to use Draper’s formulation, “exaggerating in every way that side of the problem which points in the direction it is necessary to move now”21—enables a serious socialist party to intervene as circumstances change. Unless it does so, revolutionary principle remains sterile—as Kautsky’s “consistency” came to demonstrate.

In particular, Lih dismisses Tony Cliff’s claim that Lenin had to persuade his supporters to abandon positions held in 1903 as “totally false”.22 What the record shows, according to Lih, is not an opposition in principle to Lenin’s proposal to recruit workers to the party committees, only a disagreement over its practicability (the committee men criticised it “because it merely affirmed an axiomatic goal (worker recruitment) without showing ways and means”, to use Lih’s language).23

But for all Cliff’s reliance on a particular source,24 did he get it as wrong as Lih claims? At the Congress Lenin complained, according to the Collected Works, that “the inertness of the committee-men has to be overcome”—a statement that was met by applause and booing. Lenin went on to argue that “to place workers on the committees is a political, not only a pedagogical, task”.25 Lenin’s emphasis on the political importance of getting workers onto the committees suggests that the opposition of the committee-men ran deeper than practicalities.

In addition there are the memoirs of Nadezhda Krupskaya, Lenin’s wife and an important Bolshevik in her own right, who was present at the Congress. She reported Lenin as saying, after the debate was concluded: “I could not sit still and listen to them saying that there were no workers suitable to be members of committees. The question drags on, and it shows there is a malady in the party. Workers must be brought onto the committees”.26

“Bending the stick”, then, as a metaphor that shouldn’t be taken too literally,27 makes sense of the shifts in Lenin’s practice—particularly here. Lenin himself warned, in his own comments on the re-publication of WITBD in 1907, against treating the pamphlet outside the “concrete historical situation” of a past stage in the party’s development. Its “incorrect or exaggerated ideas on the subject of an organisation of professional revolutionaries” could be criticised but this was to miss the fact that they no longer applied to the present.28

Noting such shifts, as here between the period of WITBD and that of 1905, is not to depict Lenin negatively—as an incompetent or incoherent leader who did not know his own mind as Lih claims. It is, rather, to show that Lenin bent the stick, when required, to ensure particular organisational forms did not hinder the party from growing when conditions changed. This flexibility should not be confused with manoeuvring. Where Lenin was inflexible was in his single-minded determination to build a party capable of overthrowing capitalism. The relationship between tactics and principle was a dialectical process of preserving past gains while overcoming one-sidedness.

Was Lenin a Kautskyan?

Since Lenin Rediscovered Lih has pushed the idea of Kautsky’s influence on Lenin to the point of challenging what seems an obvious problem: Lenin’s open rupture with the “renegade” Kautsky after 1914. However, says Lih, “Lenin felt that Kautsky had changed, not himself. He saw no reason to abandon the outlook he shared with Kautsky just at the time when, in his eyes, events had justified it completely”.29 Contrary to appearances, Lenin’s writings even after 1914 owe an “enormous debt” to Kautsky’s “scenario of global revolutionary interaction” (over the national question, imperialism, and political and social revolution).30 Lih says this is proved by the praise Lenin gave in 1915 to Kautsky’s 1909 The Road to Power.

It wasn’t Lenin, then, who broke with Kautskyanism; it was Kautsky. As Lih puts it: “Lenin’s political outlook and strategy from 1914 on stemmed from a definition of the situation that he took lock, stock and barrel from the writings of ‘Kautsky when he was a Marxist’”.31 Indeed, “aggressive unoriginality”32 is how Lih describes Lenin’s general relationship to Kautsky, one that presents a picture of a Lenin who remains strangely unchanging in his Kautskyism.

This view of Lenin, echoed in Lih’s biography of Lenin,33 seems to have become received wisdom by some on the left, if the review by a leading North American socialist activist, Charlie Post, is anything to go by. Post says Lih is right to argue, among other things, that “Lenin remained a relatively consistent ‘Kautskyan’ Marxist through 1921”, that he “never developed an original ‘theory of the party’—he merely adapted the SPD model to ‘Russian conditions’”, that his strategy for the Russian Revolution was not “unique” but one already outlined by Kautsky in 1906 and that with the failure of the post-war European revolutions, the failure of the peasantry to split between kulak and poor peasant, and the failure of the Soviet state to conform to Lenin’s expectations in The State and Revolution, Lenin was forced to “reconsider ‘the textbook à la Kautsky’”.34

Graciously, Post concedes: “While there is little of Lenin’s theory with the exception of State and Revolution and LeftWing Communism that is either original or of enduring value, the practice of the Bolsheviks through 1917 remains relevant”.35 How so big an exception does not invalidate both the main proposition and its relevance to 1917 is a mystery.

The notion of “aggressive unoriginality” underlies Lih’s revisionist understanding of the significance of Lenin’s 1917 April Theses. In the activist interpretation, the Theses mark a sharp break from “old Bolshevism” and a rearming of the party that would make the October Revolution possible. It was a “bending of the stick” that faced even greater resistance than that put up by the committee-men in 1905.

Lih rejects this, arguing that the “most famous of historical narratives”, in which Lenin “arrives” in April, the Bolsheviks “are baffled with his new vision”, he “faces them down” and then, after a month’s debate, “everyone gets on board the new line” is simply wrong. Mutual misunderstandings and questions of timing apart, there was general agreement on the basic message, which was to “protect the revolution, respond to the national crisis, carry out the basic programme of the revolution”.36 The April Theses are not even as original as some claim. Lenin was influenced by his reading of a recent article of Kautsky’s, which Lih calls “a concise précis of old Bolshevik strategy”. The verbal echoes “add weight to the strong circumstantial case for seeing Kautsky’s article as the catalyst for Lenin’s greatest innovations in his ideological outlook”.37 (In other words, Kautskyanism underpinned whatever was really new.) More damningly, it is wrong to assume that Lenin won the debate over the April Theses against the old Bolsheviks. On the contrary, Lih concludes, “old Bolshevism triumphed in 1917”, something that Lenin “came close to explicitly acknowledging” after the event.38 The only conclusion to be drawn from this is that, just as the conflict between Lenin and the committee-men in 1905 had been over the practicalities of worker representation, so the conflict between Lenin and the “old Bolsheviks” in 1917 was a pragmatic one over the best way to bring about the Kautskyan revolution.

This has very profound implications for our understanding of the October Revolution itself. Lih argues that the message referred to in the previous paragraph (about protecting the revolution) “could be summed up as Vsya vlast’ sovyetam (‘All power to the soviets’)” but that he found the phrase Vsya vlast’ naridu (“All power to the people”) more often in the Bolshevik party’s pamphlets.39 Furthermore, Lih claims that “in the months leading up to the revolution, socialism was downplayed” (even if after October steps towards it were “prominent”). The Bolsheviks had to “downplay socialism” before the revolution because “if they thought socialist revolution would appeal to [the people], then they would have called for it. They must have known that it would not appeal.” The Bolsheviks may have wanted the revolution to lead to socialism, but they necessarily remained cautious and pro-peasant. What this “urban radical party” achieved was the creation of “a great peasant army” that “would win the civil war”. This was the realisation of the “original Bolshevik scenario”.40

Lih argues that the left, for all its familiarity with the idea that 1917 was a worker-peasant revolution, is wrong to “choose to emphasise discontinuity in 1917”; “they are hung up…on the juxtaposition between democratic revolution and socialist revolution. In my view there is certainly a shift, but the discontinuity has been overstated”.41 If Lih is correct, then the soviet seizure of power cannot truly be called a socialist revolution in the sense of workers taking power in order to break with capitalism and begin constructing a socialist order. The only conclusion we can draw from this is that October was a popular-democratic revolution—a better, if not qualitatively different, version of February—but one that did not and indeed could not challenge capitalism except partially.

So if Lenin was always deep down a Kautskyan, then the October Revolution itself was a realisation of the (Kautskyan) old Bolshevik 1905 scenario. But if this is true, why should Lenin’s Kautskyanism have created a party capable of overthrowing the state? Was this simply a subjective factor, a matter of Lenin sticking to his Kautskyanism, while Kautsky turned his back on it?

To answer this, we need to turn to the question of whether “democracy” meant the same thing to Lenin as it did to Kautsky. At issue here is the nature of the state under capitalism, the role of electoral politics, and the significance of the soviet form of power. As we hope to show, whatever their common commitment to political freedom as the goal of revolution, a much deeper divergence explains why Lenin was capable of building a party that could bring revolutionary change, whereas Kautsky not only could not but finished up on the wrong side.

Kautsky’s road to power

Lenin certainly admired the Kautsky of The Road to Power and before. But does this prove that Kautsky must be considered a revolutionary Marxist before 1914 even if he ceased to be one afterwards? Some have argued he was never, even at an early stage, a revolutionary in the sense that Lenin was one. Massimo Salvadori, for example, argues that “by the end of the 19th century” Kautsky held a view of the state and democracy “that would inevitably clash with Soviet theory and the practice of the government of the Bolsheviks”. Kautsky “had always regarded the dictatorship of the proletariat as a regime which, although it would represent the power of the proletariat alone, would be established by free elections [and] would be based on the use of parliament for socialist purposes”.42

In his writings, however, Kautsky stressed that only through proletarian revolution could capitalism be defeated and socialism introduced.43 How was this commitment to revolutionary Marxism reconciled with an equally repeated commitment to the “so-called peaceful method of class struggle, which confines itself to the non-military method of parliamentarism, strikes, demonstrations, the press, and similar means of exerting pressure”?44 The justification for this new method of struggle (“at least in countries with reasonably democratic institutions”45) was that, though revolution was still the goal, its insurrectionary form, characteristic of the period of bourgeois revolutions, no longer fitted.

There is an obvious tension here between ends and means: peaceful methods of struggle seem the antithesis of revolutionary methods. Kautsky tended to finesse the tension. The “democratic-proletarian method of struggle”46 was not a substitute for the class struggle required for socialism, as “democracy cannot eliminate the class antagonism of capitalist society”.47 On the other hand, parliamentarism represented the only way to marshall one’s forces—under existing circumstances—until the day of capitalism’s revolutionary overthrow arrived (this could be said to be a crude, mechanical version of Engels’s position48).

But Kautsky also offered a justification for the peaceful method of struggle that opened the door to the idea that the revolution could be achieved peacefully. In chapter 5, section 9 of his 1892 commentary on the Erfurt Programme, he wrote that “whenever the proletariat engages in parliamentary activity as a self-conscious class, parliamentarism begins to change its character. It ceases to be a mere tool in the hands of the bourgeoisie”.49 This was an ambiguous formula, admitting both a revolutionary and a reformist interpretation. On the one hand, it implied that once the working class began to compete for votes parliamentarism was no longer a terrain reserved for the bourgeoisie—a position consistent with a stress on the limits of parliamentarism (the inability of bourgeois democracy to eliminate class antagonism). On the other hand, it might also imply that parliamentarism, under pressure from the working class, might lose its bourgeois class character altogether. If so, the prospect of the proletariat establishing its power through parliament (by filling it with a different class character) was still a possibility. Kautsky’s formulation, in other words, allowed an accommodation with reformism.

This tells us something about the nature of Kautsky’s Marxism. Though his reputation as a Marxist rested on a decade-long theoretical struggle against revisionism in the German party, his Marxism offered virtually nothing to the working class except faith in the peaceful method of struggle. One day the decisive battle between bourgeoisie and proletariat might come, but as for what workers in the meantime should do for themselves, Kautsky had little concrete to say. This meant (in the absence of revolutionary theory as a guide to action) that the parliamentarist terrain he operated on was that of his revisionist opponents. Their parliamentarism had no need for revolution as the goal justifying their practice. But nor, in effect, did Kautsky’s, as the goal of revolution was forever postponed till the time was right (which it never was). Kautsky was bold in calling for irreconcilable opposition to the existing order in a new era of revolutions,50 but timid when reality demanded it. As Gary Steenson argues, his opposition to the right wing of the party gave “his work a radical flavour that at times belied the moderation of his true position”.51 Dick Geary argues something similar when he claims that “though certainly not intentionally, Kautsky too was a ‘revisionist’”52—as long as by “revisionist” we understand this to mean that Kautsky’s defence of Marxism failed to preserve its revolutionary content.

There was, then, a deep ambiguity about what parliamentarism expected from “democracy”. Was it no more than the best terrain on which socialists should fight—without expecting socialism to come through parliament? Or did electoral success mean it could? The painful business of revolution might be avoided altogether by a peaceful “revolution” through parliament. The almost constant rise of German Social Democracy to become the biggest party in the Reichstag by 1912 seemed good enough—proof that “democracy” was making socialism (in general terms) irresistible. As long as capitalism remained relatively “peaceful” and parliament the focus for challenging the hegemony of bourgeois politics (in terms of votes cast and MPs elected), the test of whether or not parliamentarism brought real power for the working class could be avoided.

But the intensified crisis of imperialism changed that. In theory, Kautsky understood that revolution was more necessary than ever if society was not to descend into war and barbarism. But he was incapable of breaking with the parliamentarism that he had so long championed (“failing to bend the stick”, one might say) and that had been the bedrock of German Social Democracy. The deep ambiguities in his Marxism became clearer—at least to the German Social Democratic left, who had the advantage of observing Kautsky at closer quarters than Lenin.

Russian exceptionalism

One reason why Lenin admired Kautsky (before 1914) was because of Kautsky’s response to the 1905 Russian Revolution.

That has to do with the fact that, as far as “peaceful methods” of struggle were concerned, the exception for Kautsky was Russia. There “older” methods of revolutionary struggle would have to be used precisely because, in the absence of meaningful democratic institutions, peaceful methods of struggle were self-evidently not possible. Democracy (even bourgeois democracy) could only come as a result of revolution—it could not be a way to, or a substitute for, revolution. This “exceptionalism” allowed Kautsky to think, for a time, beyond his habitual attachment to parliamentarism. It led him to support Lenin and the Bolsheviks in 1905 and oppose the Mensheviks. In 1917 the reverse was true: “democracy” excluded the possibility of socialism through the soviets.53

The disagreement between socialists (at least between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks in the 1905 period) was not over the nature of the forthcoming revolution: given Russian backwardness, the common socialist belief was that it could not be other than a bourgeois one, bringing about the free development of capitalism and therefore the development of a working class able to bring about a future socialist revolution.54 Where Bolsheviks and Mensheviks disagreed was over how, in practice, Tsarism was to be overthrown. Earlier, Plekhanov, the founder of Russian Marxism, had argued that the Russian bourgeoisie was too cowardly to lead its own revolution and so the cultural and political tasks of leadership would “fall to the lot of the proletariat”55 as the most revolutionary class in society, tiny though it was. The logic of this position was that socialists should strive to preserve the political independence of the working class.

Yet the Mensheviks (and Plekhanov himself) now reneged on that logic. Instead they looked for an alliance with the liberal bourgeoisie, in which the working class was to play a politically subordinate role. It should stiffen the backbone of the liberals but not frighten them with excessive anti-capitalist demands. The Bolsheviks rejected that strategy as both dangerous (the liberals would always prefer compromise) and liquidationist (the class interests of the proletariat would be sacrificed). The Bolsheviks looked, instead, for allies among the oppressed peasantry.

Looking for allies among a “backward” class, more likely to be pro-monarchist than pro-liberal, made the Bolshevik position appear unorthodox from a Marxist point of view. However, Kautsky, when appealed to as a Marxist authority by Plekhanov, dashed Menshevik expectations and sided unequivocally with the Bolsheviks.56 Lenin was delighted. In his “Preface to the Russian Translation of K Kautsky’s Pamphlet: The Driving Forces and Prospects of the Russian Revolution”, he wrote: “A bourgeois revolution, brought about by the proletariat and the peasantry in spite of the instability of the bourgeoisie—this fundamental principle of Bolshevik tactics is wholly confirmed by Kautsky”.57

It wasn’t only the question of social forces that led Kautsky to distance himself from parliamentarism. The huge strike wave that swept over Russia (and Poland, then one of the most industrialised parts of the Russian Empire) led Kautsky to a positive revision of his view of the armed insurrection. Given that the mass strike had undermined the discipline of the army and the state could no longer rely on its armed forces to control the working class, he could no longer affirm that “armed insurrection…will no longer play a decisive role in the future revolution”58—a tortuous way of saying it might.

Kautsky’s preparedness to endorse (albeit cautiously) the mass strike as a political weapon set him on a potential collision course with the reformist trade union and parliamentary leaders of the German party, for whom such a strategy risked provoking the class enemy and undermining the gains made by parliamentarism. This was the high-water mark of his revolutionary Marxism.

But his boldness was conditional upon Russian “exceptionalism”—upon the difference from “democratic” countries where parliamentarism was the norm. Thus, though Kautsky was prepared to concede that the political mass strike was, in theory, generalisable beyond the borders of Russia, in practice he fairly rapidly retreated from the idea. When the German left, and Rosa Luxemburg in particular, began to agitate in 1910 for the party to adopt the political mass strike as a demand that would take the movement forward, she was opposed by Kautsky, who argued that conditions were not right in Germany. But the way he framed his argument was to suggest that this was more than a tactical question:

The more democratic the constitution of a country, the less there exist conditions for a mass strike, the less necessary for the masses does such a strike become, and therefore the less often it happens. Where the proletariat possesses sufficient electoral rights, a mass strike is only to be expected as a defensive measure—as a means to protect voting rights or a parliament with strong social-democratic representation, against a government that refuses to obey the will of the people’s representatives.59

In other words, the growth of “democracy” was making the mass strike obsolete as a political strategy—at best it could only supplement parliamentary work. Luxemburg may have been wrong tactically about the political use of the mass strike in Germany in 1910 (on this point Lenin agreed with Kautsky) but she spotted, as Lenin did not at the time, the fundamental flaw in Kautsky’s “nothing but parliamentarism”.60

Democracy and the state

Russian “exceptionalism” allowed Kautsky no more than a temporary deviation from his habitual parliamentarism. It also meant he did not have to confront the question of the state. For if the Russian Revolution was a “democratic” one then so was the state that issued from it: the most the working class and its peasant allies were fighting for was parliamentary democracy.

Yet the pre-war German left, in the debate about the mass strike, began to question this. Anton Pannekoek, for example, argued that “the struggle of the proletariat is not simply a struggle against the bourgeoisie for state power, but a struggle against the power of the state”.61 This distinction made clear something that parliamentarism ducked: namely, that the bourgeois state, however democratic, cannot be captured (through control of parliament) and imbued with a different class content. What Russia in 1905 threw up, and what 1917 repeated on an incomparably bigger scale, was the soviet.

Kautsky failed to grasp its political significance. This was understandable in 1905—virtually no socialist who accepted the bourgeois nature of the revolution did. Lenin, however, saw its potential as an embryonic “democratic dictatorship” by the workers and peasants. He argued that “the soviet should proclaim itself the provisional revolutionary government of the whole of Russia as early as possible, or should set up a provisional revolutionary government (which would amount to the same thing, only in a different form)”.62 In other words, it could be a new form of state power, embodying the democratic rule of the exploited and the oppressed over society.

What, however, was its relationship to the goal of the revolution in Russia? For the Mensheviks, the soviet was at most an instrument to help put power in the hands of the bourgeoisie—certainly not a new form of political power, given the goal of the revolution was the establishment of parliamentary democracy. Lenin’s position was, therefore, superior to that of the Mensheviks. But it had a weakness. The “democratic dictatorship” of soviet rule might be the only way in which power could be wrested from Tsarism but it could not be other than an episodic state form, given the assumption that the revolution was constrained by its bourgeois limits. The “democratic dictatorship” would have to give way to a constituent assembly and the introduction of parliamentary democracy.

It was this ambiguity (about the primacy or otherwise of the soviet form of power) that was at the heart of the conflict between the “old Bolsheviks” and Lenin in 1917. The “old Bolsheviks”, true to the 1905 scenario of the “democratic dictatorship”, gave critical support to the provisional government insofar as it maintained the gains of the revolution, and was backed by the soviet. Lenin’s argument was that the scenario had been made obsolete by the actual course of events. The danger lay in the soviets “voluntarily ceding power to the bourgeoisie, voluntarily making itself an appendage of the bourgeoisie”.63 The new task facing the Bolsheviks, then, was to reverse that process of ceding power—by getting the masses to see “that the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies are the only possible form of revolutionary government” and through “patient, systematic and persistent explanation” prepare the way, not for a parliamentary republic (“a retrograde step”) but for a soviet one.64

Lenin was surely right. Lih claims, however, that “old Bolshevism” was the real victor in 1917 and that “old Bolshevism” was Kautskyan. Yet what would have happened to the revolution if Lenin had not broken with “old Bolshevism”? The key issue was soviet power. Lih implies that the old Bolsheviks were as ready as Lenin for the soviets to take power. Yet that is open to question. The logic of the old Bolshevik position (of semi-support for the provisional government on the grounds that the revolution had yet to complete its bourgeois-democratic phase) was to defer seizure of power by the soviets and put the revolution in jeopardy. It was an adaptation to the Menshevik argument about “stages”: first the bourgeois, then the socialist revolution (an idea to prove fatal in the Chinese Revolution of 1925-27).

This also tells us something about Kautsky’s understanding of state power in 1917. He fell back on his “exceptionalist” logic: non-parliamentary force was required to bring about a revolution but only insofar as it guaranteed the emergence of parliamentarism. Bourgeois parliamentary democracy, in effect, was as good as it was ever going to get for Kautsky. It was not just the form of democracy best suited for socialists to organise under capitalism. It became, for Kautsky, the highest form of democracy, the only form through which socialism could be realised. There was no other route to socialism except the “democratic” one (of parliamentary majorities). The soviet, therefore, when it came to realise its potential in 1917, was something Kautsky had to reject as less than being fully democratic—which is why he criticised the Bolsheviks in 1918 for dispersing the Constituent Assembly and not letting an elected government replace Soviet power, a criticism he sought to justify as Marxist orthodoxy.65 This is also why in the course of the German Revolution in 1918 to 1919 Kautsky “was willing to accept the [workers’] councils as revolutionary, and therefore temporary bodies, but in politics he thought their utility strictly limited to the period of transition from the old Reich to the new republic”.66

Rosa Luxemburg’s riposte to Kautsky’s accusation that the Bolsheviks were against “democracy” because the soviets did not operate on universal suffrage is the right one:

The party of Lenin was the only one which grasped the mandate and duty of a truly revolutionary party and which, by the slogan—”All power in the hands of the proletariat and the peasantry”—insured the continued development of the revolution.

Thereby the Bolsheviks solved the famous problem of “winning a majority of the people”, which problem has ever weighed on the German Social Democracy like a nightmare. As bred in the bone disciples of parliamentary cretinism, these German Social Democrats have sought to apply to revolutions the homemade wisdom of the parliamentary nursery: in order to carry anything, you must first have a majority. The same, they say, applies to revolution: first let’s become a “majority”. The true dialectic of revolutions, however, stands this wisdom of parliamentary moles on its head: not through a majority to revolutionary tactics, but through revolutionary tactics to a majority—that is the way the road runs.67

Lenin’s insistence that soviets rather than the parliamentary republic were the democratic way forward was, then, not just an aspect of his earlier break with Kautsky. It was also, whatever Lih claims, a root and branch break with Kautskyanism.

Early on in The State and Revolution Lenin demonstrated how far Kautsky’s Marxism excused a reformist view of the state:

“Theoretically”, it is not denied that the state is an organ of class rule, or that class antagonisms are irreconcilable. But what is overlooked or glossed over is this: if the state is the product of the irreconcilability of class antagonisms…it is clear that the liberation of the oppressed class is impossible not only without a violent revolution, but also without the destruction of the apparatus of class power which was created by the ruling class.68

Lenin calls this Kautsky’s “systematic deviation towards opportunism precisely on the question of the state”.69 As a result, “the most essential distinction between Marxism and opportunism on the subject of the tasks of the proletarian revolution was slurred over by Kautsky!”70 Lenin locates this “deviation” (a systematic one, it should be noted), not as something of recent appearance, but as something that emerged as far back as 1899, in other words, at a time when, according to Lih, Kautsky for Lenin “was still a Marxist”.

Kautsky’s Marxism could look impressive—while untested in practice. Lenin’s Fifth Letter from Afar (in early 1917) refers to the Kautsky article that Lih claims influenced him. Lenin quotes Kautsky: “Two things are urgently needed by the proletariat: democracy and socialism.” “Unfortunately,” Lenin adds, “Kautsky advances this absolutely incontestable thesis in an exceedingly general form, so that in essence he says nothing and explains nothing”.71

The Leninist party

The shortcomings in Kautsky’s politics are reflected in his model of the party. The German SPD, as he famously put it, was “a revolutionary party, but not a revolution-making party”.72 The general truth of this statement (that revolutions cannot be produced at will but are determined by historical conditions) was in practice, as Pannekoek put it, a “theory of action-less waiting…of passive radicalism”.73 The working class was to do very little on its own account other than trust in parliamentarism to build a revolutionary party that would achieve power on its behalf (Chris Harman noted that Kautsky seemed to have “an almost pathological fear of what the workers would do without the party and of the associated dangers of a ‘premature’ revolution”).74

A theoretical commitment to revolution in general, and resistance to revisionism in particular, did not entail a corresponding organisational form. If all that really mattered was how successful the party’s parliamentarist strategy was, then the priority was unity in the sense of breadth rather than unity in the sense of ideological cohesiveness. A party representing the class as a whole would unavoidably reflect its unevenness of consciousness. And this would not ultimately matter, given that history guaranteed socialism.

Compare this with Lenin’s very different practice of party building. At the 1903 Russian Social Democratic Party conference, he criticised an opponent, who “lumps together in the party organised and unorganised elements…the advanced and the incorrigibly backward”,75 as producing dangerous confusion. On the contrary, Lenin argued:

the stronger our party organisations, consisting of real Social-Democrats, the less wavering and instability there is within the party, the broader, more varied, richer, and more fruitful will be the party’s influence on the elements of the working class masses surrounding it and guided by it. The party, as the vanguard of the working class, must not be confused, after all, with the entire class.76

This distinction was at the root of the difference between him and Martov over membership rules. The point was the party should not reflect the inevitable unevenness of the consciousness of the class inside the party but organise its most revolutionary section only—the better to intervene in the broader working class movement. Lenin, in Paul Frölich’s much later words, “wanted a firmly and tightly organised party which, as the vanguard of the class, would be closely connected with it, but at the same time clearly distinct from it”.77

Organisation for Lenin, then, was an expression of politics—not something of secondary importance. But taking organisation seriously (the permanent need to ensure ideological clarity the better to intervene) also meant that any particular form of party organisation was only good insofar as it made intervention by the vanguard more effective. Hence the shifts (the stick-bending) we have already argued as essential to understanding Lenin. What needs stressing here is that it is wrong to suppose that stick-bending was simply a pragmatic response to circumstances (a kind of make it up as you go along version of the party). If that were so, the case against a stick-bending Lenin as making him look unprincipled would be correct—whereas the principle behind each bending was whether the party improved its capacity to lead the working class to revolution. For the same reason, it is mistaken to cherry-pick Lenin.

Take, for example, “democratic centralism”. By decontextualising this, one can create almost any Leninism one wishes to. Where bits of WITBD were once used to construct an ultra-centralist, proto-Stalinist Lenin, now other passages are used to construct an ultra-democratic Lenin. Those who insist on centralism as the dialectical condition of effective party democracy tend to be confronted with this from Lenin: that the Central Committee “has absolutely no right to call upon the party organisations to accept its resolution” and that “discipline does not demand that a party member should blindly subscribe to all the resolutions drafted by the Central Committee”.78

If we put this statement in context, Lenin’s preoccupation was not some general democratic right to disobey the Central Committee but the specific need to preserve revolutionary politics in conditions where the Mensheviks had become the majority following the 1906 Stockholm (Unity) conference and were using their control of the Central Committee to push support for the right wing constitutional democratic ministry appointed by the Tsar. Anatoly Lunacharsky reported Lenin as saying to him before the conference: “If we have a majority in the Central Committee we will demand the strictest discipline. We will insist that the Mensheviks submit to party unity.” In the event of the Mensheviks winning a majority Lenin replied: “We won’t permit the idea of unity to tie a noose around our necks and we shall in no circumstances permit the Mensheviks to lead us by the rope”.79 Lenin was determined to preserve the revolutionary tradition through preserving Bolshevik organisational “autonomy” within a party dominated by a liquidationist leadership in this period.

These were the “muddy years”, as Paul Le Blanc puts it, and only by comprehending what Lenin did during this period “will we be able to grasp the revolutionary organisational principles that are vitally relevant for our own time”.80 The defeat of the 1905 Revolution involved Lenin in a battle on two fronts as Russian Social Democracy splintered under the pressure of Tsarist reaction and the retreat of the working class. The Mensheviks wanted a purely legal party with no commitment to revolution. The ultra-lefts wanted a purely underground party that turned its back on the few legal opportunities open to revolutionaries (electoral work, for example). The outcome of Lenin’s struggle against both tendencies—and against those who wanted to conciliate the different wings in the name of party unity (Trotsky was the chief culprit in this respect)—was that Lenin was able to reconstitute Russian Social Democracy as the kind of party he had talked of in 1903, one whose ideological cohesiveness would allow it to intervene effectively. At the Prague Conference of 1912 the party was reborn as effectively a purely Bolshevik one.

Lih dismisses the idea that this represents the emergence of a “party of a new type”, describing this as a “dumbed down version of a Stalin-era slogan” which “became a staple of western textbooks”.81 The formal position of Lenin and his comrades may well have been that this was not a different type of party and that its nearly all-Bolshevik character was a reflection of the Mensheviks’ self-exclusion. Yet something had fundamentally changed. Lenin’s report in 1914 to the Second International was clear about what unity in this “Bolshevik Party” now meant. Previously tolerated positions were “deemed deserving of condemnation” or “incompatible with membership in the party”82—which was not the same as saying that minorities did not have rights to voice disagreements before the whole party.

Paul Le Blanc argues that this reflected Lenin’s earlier view (around 1904 and 1905), when he had favoured “an uncompromising organisational split from the Mensheviks”.83 He had revised this view in the hope that the wave of revolution would push them towards the Bolsheviks. The fact that the contrary had happened, and that a bitter factional war against liquidationists and conciliators had had to be fought, convinced Lenin, who “reverted to the split perspective, which he believed was necessary for the future effectiveness of a genuinely revolutionary vanguard”.84 So surely Le Blanc is correct to conclude that this split perspective constituted a “veering away from the classic example of German Social Democracy”, in which revolutionaries and reformists coexisted.85 A party of a new type, then, in reality if not in name, had been created.

Paul Le Blanc’s summary of the positions of the Mensheviks, of Kautsky and of Lenin’s Bolsheviks seems to us essentially correct:

With the Mensheviks, based on a dogmatic adherence to the notion that Russia could only go through a democratic-capitalist transformation (that a working class socialist revolution would not be on the agenda until many years later), they became committed to a worker-capitalist alliance, which naturally created pressures that forced them to compromise the class struggle elements of Marxism.

For Kautsky, by 1910, it became clear that he would become marginalised within the increasingly bureaucratic-conservative German Social Democratic movement unless he subtly but increasingly diluted his seemingly unequivocal and eloquent commitment to revolutionary Marxism. By 1914, when the German Social Democratic Party supported the imperialist war policies of the Kaiser’s government, and in 1917 in the face of the Bolshevik revolution, Kautsky became utterly compromised.

What is distinctive about Lenin’s Bolsheviks is that they did not compromise, they doggedly followed through to the end the implications of the revolutionary Marxist orientation—expressed in What Is To Be Done? The State and Revolution and so much else in Lenin’s writings.86

The activist Lenin

The activist interpretation has always sought to defend Lenin against the image of him as either the demiurge of Stalinist imagination or the demon of Western Cold War warriors. In so doing it has also sought to show that Lenin’s practice, understood critically and creatively, can be theorised beyond its immediate context. Indeed, without Leninism and without a Leninist party, no revolution can hope to overthrow capitalism and bring about socialism.

Lih’s Kautskyanisation of Lenin essentially denies this—and along with that denies the October Revolution as the product of Leninism. Lih may not go so far as Kautsky’s negative verdict on the Bolsheviks87—that the soviet regime was a denial of “democracy”, and therefore necessarily a dictatorship over the proletariat (and the rest of society), rather than of it. But nevertheless, implicit in this Kautskyanisation is the idea that “Leninism” is at best a figment of the activist imagination or at worst a deviation from Marxism.

If, then, we are to discard the Leninist approach and see the October Revolution through a Kautskyan prism, what is accentuated is its “exceptionalist” nature, its difference from the kind of revolution required in advanced, bourgeois-democratic Europe. Bolshevism seems limited, confined to explaining the specific reasons as to why Lenin and his comrades succeeded in 1917. More broadly, though, the point of this Kautskyanisation is to deny the possibility of forming out of the experience of Lenin and the Bolsheviks a theory that can serve as a guide to action for the overthrow of capitalism more generally. Any attempt to do so, we are warned, means endorsing “Leninism” as the product of a degenerating Communist International. What, then, we are left with is a Catch-22 choice; either the “real” Lenin, the Kautskyan Lenin or a constructed Lenin, the proto-Stalinist Lenin.

Yet there is plenty of evidence in Lenin’s own thinking and practice that, when he broke from Kautsky in 1914, he was determined to renew Marxism as a living practice. The clue lies in how Lenin began to rethink the kind of International needed after the collapse of the Second International in 1914. This rethinking also involved a very different view of the kind of parties that should constitute a new International.

In late 1914 Lenin made it clear that he was opposed to patching up the old International. Getting the leaders who had lined up with their respective ruling classes round the same table would not do. It would not address the deep-seated failings of an International that had so adapted to “peaceful” conditions that it had fallen apart when capitalism’s descent into war made Kautsky’s call for revolution in an imperialist epoch an urgent, practical necessity. A qualitatively different type of International was needed—one that would demand “a complete break with the chauvinists and with the defenders of social-chauvinism”88 (among the defenders he clearly had Kautsky in mind), not one which tolerated unity with them. And therefore the kind of party it needed was qualitatively different from the one that had tolerated opportunists in its ranks. Writing in early 1915, he inveighed against the kind of “unity” that had typified the Kautskyan parties making up the Second International:

Typical of the socialist parties of the epoch of the Second International was one that tolerated in its midst an opportunism…that kept itself secret, adapting itself to the revolutionary workers, borrowing their Marxist terminology, and evading any clear cleavage of principles. This type has outlived itself.89

He reinforced the point about the relevance of Bolshevism when he wrote in 1918 in Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky that “Bolshevism has created the ideological and tactical foundations of a Third International, of a really proletarian and Communist International, which will take into consideration both the gains of the tranquil epoch [that of the Second International] and the epoch of revolutions, which has begun”.90

The Bolshevik model, then, was not just about creating a party committed to soviet power. It was also about using “the gains of the tranquil epoch” in a revolutionary not opportunist way—the point of “Left WingCommunism—an Infantile Disorder. The famous 21 conditions of membership of the International (also of 1920) were not just an attempt to make sure that Social Democratic parties, for which the Comintern had become “popular”, could only join as long as they broke with their reformist wing. They also implied a radically different way of operating under bourgeois-democratic conditions—one that required applying Bolshevism creatively and critically.

The question of how to create communist parties reflecting a combination of inflexible principle and tactical suppleness was also at the heart of Lenin’s comments on the 1921 Comintern resolution (which he had played a role in composing) on how Bolshevik parties should organise and operate. It was, said Lenin in his very last speech to the Communist International in 1922, “an excellent one”. But “it is almost entirely Russian” and so “quite unintelligible to foreigners, and they cannot be content with hanging it in a corner like an icon and praying to it”.

This is sometimes offered as proof that Lenin rejected the resolution as a mistaken attempt to generalise Bolshevism to countries where it did not (and so perhaps could not) apply. Lenin certainly emphasised what was mistaken about it: its incomprehensibility kept it a dead letter, blocking the way to further success. For all that he was insistent that the “resolution must be carried out” and that foreign communists “must assimilate part of the Russian experience” he also argued: “Just how that will be done, I do not know… We Russians must also find ways and means of explaining the principles of this resolution to the foreigners. Unless we do that, it will be absolutely impossible for them to carry it out”.91 Lenin, then, was still emphasising the vital importance of making the foreigners learn despite the difficulties with the resolution’s present “unintelligibility”.

The need for the parties of the Comintern to absorb the experience of Bolshevism and apply it organisationally should not in any way be confused with the kind of internal regime Grigori Zinoviev (and later Joseph Stalin) insisted these parties should adopt. “Bolshevisation” was a product not of “Bolshevism” but of the degeneration of the Comintern following the defeat of the German Revolution in October 1923. The Comintern stopped being an instrument of revolutionary internationalism and turned into a tool of Russian foreign policy. Alas, Lenin’s worst fears were realised. “Bolshevism” became a ritual of bureaucratically arrived at decisions from on high to be blindly obeyed.


Why, finally, does this argument matter today? The Kautskyanisation of Lenin has been offered as proof that there is no such thing as the “Leninist” revolutionary party. The chief target is Cliff, particularly his account, in volumes 1 and 2 of his political biography of Lenin, of how Lenin built the party and prepared it for October 1917.

The critique goes beyond saying Cliff got this or that aspect wrong, or that he exaggerated or neglected parts of Lenin’s political life. It argues, in effect, that the practice of organisations that look to the “Leninist” model is bound to be at fault because the model advanced by Cliff owes more to the Zinoviev-Stalin interpretation of “Bolshevism” than to anything else.

In one way, this returns us to the old lie that Lenin led to Stalin, and that Leninists are all Stalinists (if only closet Stalinists). But for a left that has lost whatever confidence it had that a revolutionary party rooted in the working class is possible, a Kautskyan Lenin makes sense. On the one hand, as against a discredited reformism that no longer talks of an alternative to capitalism, it preserves a commitment to socialist aims and demands; on the other, it sees this commitment being fulfilled in the creation of a party that, while supporting and seeking a basis in mass action, sees the parliamentary framework as the route through which change comes. That, then, is a way to paint left reformism red.

Is there a historical precedent for this? Actually, there is in the Eurocommunist project of the 1970s. This involved more than de-Stalinisation. It involved a theoretical shift: a repudiation of the Soviet model of power as no longer appropriate or operable in “democratic” countries. Socialism was not a matter of “overthrowing the state” but of using parliamentarism to create a mass force that would stop the state being used to block social advance. John H Kautsky has argued persuasively that his grandfather’s view of the relationship between “democracy” and “socialism” played a key role at the time in the intellectual underpinning of Eurocommunism.92

One descendent of Eurocommunism is Syriza, currently riding high in the Greek polls. Those who espouse the model embracing reform and revolution hold this party up as the party to follow. But the Eurocommunist road to socialism proved unable to deliver even modest reforms—and in a situation where the crisis of capitalism is now much deeper a new improved left reformism will fare no better. It may be hard but the task of patiently building Leninist parties rooted in workers’ struggles remains the only way to overthrow capitalism. Lih’s Kautskyanisation of Lenin ultimately detracts from this undertaking. In his otherwise laudable attempt to unpick the real Lenin from the ideology of “Leninism” Lih has lost sight of the theoretically sophisticated interventionist conception of political practice that was Lenin’s fundamental contribution to Marxism.


1: The parties of the Second International (1889-1914) were committed, in principle, to the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. Only later did Social Democracy take on its modern, reformist meaning.

2: See Lih, 2008a, pp613-658 in particular for a discussion of “spontaneity” and other key terms in WITBD.

3: Lih, 2008a, p13, for first mention.

4: Lih, 2008a, p15.

5: Lih, 2008a, p17.

6: Lih, 2008a, p18.

7: Lih, 2008a, p8.

8: Lih, 2008a, p6.

9: Lenin, 1901, p422. Lenin makes a similar point several times over in the course of WITBD, including quoting Kautsky.

10: Lenin, 1901, p384. Lih argues convincingly that “divert” is another, distorting mistranslation (See Lih, 2008a, pp628-631).

11: Erfurt Programme, quoted in Salvadori, 1990, p30.

12: Lenin, 1899, p235.

13: Lenin, 1899, p235.

14: Lih, 2008a, p594. This ideology is, as Lih points out, the real meaning of tred-iunionizm for Lenin (the standard, misleading translation is “trade unionism”).

15: See, for example, the generally favourable reception accorded to Lenin Rediscovered in the symposium edited by Paul Blackledge in Historical Materialism, volume 18, issue 3, 2010. See also Blackledge’s review, “What Was Done”, of Lenin Rediscovered in this journal (Blackledge, 2006a). It should be noted that Chris Harman’s contribution to the symposium argued that by portraying Lenin as an “Erfurtian” Lih himself bends the stick too far in the direction of proving Lenin’s orthodoxy (Harman, 2010).

16: Lih, 2008a, p18. Lih refers mostly, here and elsewhere, to the Trotskyist tradition, to Tony Cliff, John Molyneux and Chris Harman, from the International Socialist tradition, and to Paul Le Blanc and Ernest Mandel, from the Fourth International tradition. He also refers to Marcel Liebman’s libertarian reading of Lenin. Puzzlingly, he does not refer to Hal Draper’s analysis of WITBD (see Draper, 1990).

17: Molyneux, 1986, p49.

18: Lenin, 1905c, p32. Lenin made it clear that the clarity of revolutionary principle and organisational discipline that the party had created over many years was why fear of an influx of workers was misplaced (see Lenin, 1905c, p31).

19: Lih, 2008a, p25.

20: Lih, 2008a, pp25-27.

21: Draper, 1953.

22: Lih, 2008a, p540. Cliff’s account is in Cliff, 1975, pp168-183. See also Lih 2010c, pp147-157 where Lih criticises those who share Cliff’s account, eg Harman and Molyneux.

23: Lih, 2010c, p152.

24: Lih disputes the reliability of Solomon Schwartz, a Bolshevik at the time of the 1905 conference who soon after became a Menshevik, and also accuses Cliff of plagiarising.

25: Lenin, 1905a, p408 (our emphasis).

26: Krupskaya, 1970, p116.

27: Lih has a rather long-winded discussion of the metaphor aiming to prove textually its inapplicability to Lenin (Lih, 2008a, p26).

28: Lenin, 1907b, p101.

29: Lih, 2008b.

30: Lih, 2012c.

31: Lih, 2012c.

32: See Lih, 2009a, and Lih, 2009b.

33: Lih, 2011c.

34: Post, 2011.

35: Post, 2011.

36: Lih, 2012b.

37: Lih, 2010a.

38: Lih, 2011b, p201.

39: Lih, 2012b.

40: Lih, 2012b.

41: Lih, 2012b.

42: Salvadori, 1990, p12.

43: We are paraphrasing a key section of The Road to Power, which itself is an extract from an article published some 16 years earlier (see Kautsky, 2007, pp41-42).

44: Kautsky, 2007, p44.

45: Kautsky, 2007, p43.

46: Kautsky, 2007, p44.

47: Kautsky, 2007, p43.

48: see Engels, 1990.

49: Kautsky, 1892.

50: See the last chapter, “A New Age of Revolutions”, in The Road to Power (Kautsky, 2007, pp91-106).

51: Steenson, 1991, p102.

52: Geary, 1987, p14. It should be noted that neither Geary nor Salvadori draws “Leninist” conclusions from Kautsky’s “revisionism”.

53: See, for example, The Dictatorship of the Proletariat (Kautsky, 1918).

54: The exception among socialists was Leon Trotsky. Almost alone, Trotsky saw that if the working class led the revolution, it could not but overstep the limits of a bourgeois revolution. But detailed discussion of his theory of permanent revolution, which came into its own in 1917, lies beyond the scope of this article.

55: Quoted in Cliff, 1957.

56: See Blackledge, 2006b, pp354-356, for a discussion of Kautsky’s intervention in the debate around 1905.

57: Lenin, 1907a, p411.

58: Quoted in Salvadori, 1990, p107.

59: Quoted in Anderson, 1976. From “Zwischen Baden und Luxemburg”, 1910,
( Kautsky was thinking of its use in Belgium to extend the franchise.

60: Quoted in Anderson, 1976.

61: Quoted in Geary, 1987, p77.

62: Lenin, 1905b. This was no passing comment-he amplifies and repeats the point over several pages. It follows on his defence of the soviet as a broad, non-party organisation (as opposed to some Bolsheviks who were hostile to it precisely because it was not subordinated to the party).

63: Lenin, 1917c, p46.

64: Lenin, 1917b, p23.

65: See, for example, his 1920 preface to The Road to Power (Kautsky, 2007, ppli-lxvix).

66: Steenson, 1991, p216.

67: Waters, 1970, p374.

68: Lenin, 1917d, p393.

69: Lenin, 1917d, p482 (our emphasis). Lih claims that, despite the impression left by The State and Revolution, there was no essential difference between Kautsky and Lenin on what was really meant by smashing the state-see Lih, 2011a.

70: Lenin, 1917d, p483.

71: Lenin, 1917a, pp341-342.

72: Kautsky, 2007, p41.

73: Quoted in Geary, 1987, p71.

74: Harman, 1968/9, p25.

75: Lenin, 1904, p256.

76: Lenin, 1904, p258.

77: Quoted in Molyneux, 1986, p53 (our emphasis).

78: Lenin, 1906, pp500-504.

79: Quoted in Cliff, 1975, pp277-278.

80: Le Blanc, 1993, p133.

81: Lih, 2010b. See also a more extended discussion in Lih, 2012a.

82: Lenin, 1914a, p519.

83: Le Blanc, 1993, p167.

84: Le Blanc, 1993, p168.

85: Le Blanc, 1993, p168.

86: Le Blanc, 2011.

87: Salvadori gives a useful account of Kautsky’s own evolving views from relative to absolute hostility (see Salvadori, 1990, pp251-277).

88: Lenin, 1914b, p99.

89: Lenin, 1915, p110.

90: Lenin, 1918, p292-293.

91: Lenin, 1922, p431.

92: Kautsky, 1994, pp161-204.


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