The following are my own random thoughts and responses to readings on the Russian Revolution; The Origins of the Russian Revolution 1861-1917 (Third Edition) by Alan Wood and Leninism by Neil Harding.
Bernstein’s ideology, which challenged traditional Marxism, provides ideas that Lenin would have been opposed to; Bernstein’s ideas and challenges should be noted for comparison.
Bernstein wanted gradual and peaceful reform and thought that a time of civil war was not a good time to instill socialist ideas. He seemed to support a more open and widely accepted form of socialism where as Lenin saw the introduction of socialism more the same way that Marx saw it; as an abrupt and if necessary, violent action that did not have to be accepted by all. This different view on socialism (Bernstein’s) helps to give those studying Leninism something to compare it with because these ideologies were coming about around the same time, only if different locations.
The process for a successful transition to socialism; capitalism must fail which leads to a need for the state to assert its power and eventually society would emancipate itself from the state. All throughout this reading Harding continued to make it a point to highlight what he saw as similarities between Lenin’s theory and Marxism. This need to prove that there was a relation between Marxism and Leninism has become the overarching argument of [Harding]. Lenin’s focus on economics as opposed to politics seemed to be a major piece of evidence in support of this relation.
[Harding] also argues that Lenin kind of changed the traditional view of socialism to fit Russia’s unique situation. The point in the socialist transition where Lenin was to give up power so that society could emancipate itself from the state became a period of prolonged transition where Lenin saw it fit to take a strong authoritarian stance. Harding also goes onto to argue that the reason that revolution was successful in Russia and not anywhere else in Europe was because of the special circumstances that Lenin put into place: limited membership, “professional” revolutionaries, iron discipline and democratic centralism.
An argument for Stalinism being a product of Leninism: First, the idea that Lenin lacked confidence in Stalin was presented as a counter to his argument, but Harding went on to provide great detail as to how Lenin’s “marvelous Georgian” was able to take the values set forth by Lenin and make them his own.
Lenin was a man always focused on discipline and later, during the development of Leninism he really seemed to push for one-man leadership. Lenin also had no use for due process, a factor that would cause significant issues in Stalinism. While the two may have had very different backgrounds, with Lenin being the more cultured and “polite” of the two, Harding provides a convincing argument regarding Stalinism’s roots in Lenin’s political ideology.
Harding, Neil. Leninism. Durham: Duke University Press, 1996.
Wood, Alan. The Origins of the Russian Revolution, 1861-1917. New York: Routledge, 2003.