15 November 2017

Time to leave Lenin behind

In the beginning was the proletariat.  And the proletariat was with God, and the proletariat was God.  The proletariat was in the beginning with God.  All things are made by the proletariat, and without the proletariat nothing gets made that is made.  In the Labor of the proletariat is wealth, and that wealth is the foundation of Capital.  Wealth flows from Labor to Capital but Capital shares it not, except for a trickle downward that smells suspiciously like piss.

The Russian and Iranian Revolution shared the factor of the working class, the proletariat, being its main strength and backbone.  Likewise, both revolutions turned on these foot-soldiers and destroyed their freedom, and in many cases their very lives.

The central tenets of Leninism are state capitalism, Taylorism, democratic centralism, and the party as the vanugard of the proletariat.  Lenin was a fairly effective propagandist, one of the best in the world in fact.  It would have been nice if he’d meant a damn thing he said. 

The tools for the establishment of socialism, first and foremost control of the means of production by the workers and of the military by the soldiers and farms by the peasants, were already in place in the spring of 1917.  After the October Revolution, the Bolsheviks destroyed these.  In the case of industrial workers, the classic proletariat, Lenin and the Bolsheviks took control of the means of production from the workers and placed it in the hands of the state.  Lenin remarked in several writings that the ideal at this stage was the state capitalism of the Prussian Junkers, the very people against whom Marx first rose.  God forbid anyone violate ideological protocol by taking advantage of existing workers’ control to build a system based upon that very thing.  Much better to destroy that budding socialism in order to save it.

After taking away control of the means of production, Lenin outlawed independent trade unions and instituted the form of work management know then as Taylorism.  In Taylorism, individual workers have to account for every single minute of their workday with bosses micromanaging their time and methods of work.  Taylorism at the time was one of the main targets against which trade unions in the UK and USA were then struggling.

In democratic centralism, the emphasis is on centralism  Sometimes literally in writing.  This means that a central organ or “collective” makes a decision and all subordinate bodies have to fall in line.  Within Russia itself, decisions were made by the five members of the political bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and all subordinate bodies of the party were expected to fall in line.  Kind of like the way the Democratic National Committee in the USA demands of the members of its party. 

Democratic centralism was adopted explicitly by the Russian Communist Party in 1921, but the year before, Zinoviev, then Lenin’s right-hand, had imposed it as standard operating procedure upon the new Third or Communist International, thereby subordinating the interests of working class people in other countries and the working class in general to those of the Russian Communist Party, or more specifically, to that party’s five member Polituro.  The Comintern ceased to be anything but a tool from thence forward.

Nowhere in Marx or Engels is there anything about a party of intellectuals and professional revolutionaries acting in the name of working people as the vanguard of the proletariat.  That was an invention of Lenin all on his own.  Because, you know, how dare the workers—and peasants and soldiers—act without the guidance of their betters who know more about what’s better for them than they themselves, just as in capitalist society the bourgeois know better than the proletariat and in agrarian society the planter and the landlord know better than the slave and the peasant.

Leninism and its offspring, Trotskyism, Stalinism, Maoism, etc., did not come to fullfill the socialism but to destroy it.

And Karl Marx had a comment relevant to those who cling to the illusions of the past the way too many would-be socialists cling to the discredited ideas of men a century dead.  In “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte” of 1852, Marx wrote, “The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.  And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language.”

I want the needs of the many to outweigh the greed of the very few.  I want a national health service and hospitals run by nurses, committees of practicing nurses rather than by administrative specialists.  Doctors should be subordinate to nurses, in charge of medical issues only.  Whether owned by the state or the workers themselves, I want the means of production to be run by the workers for the benefit of themselves and their community and the world around them.  I want a legal system in which the state finances defense of the accused at the same level it finances prosecution.  I want an America disarmed with Australian-style gun control and police forces dominated by unarmed officers trained in de-escalation tactics.  I want free education for all at all levels.  I want an end to private prisons, private schools, private probation agencies, private food production, private armies, private corporations.  In a free market, the only things free are the corporations.

Contrary to the pompous pronouncements of its detractors, the Occupy movement achieved its purpose, one which conservatives, neoliberals, and the media cannot co-opt, subvert, undercut, or cast as a reflection of themselves.  Concensus councils, free lending libraries, and communal organizations of the Occupy camps were not the point, which the 1% now find buried in their chests, figuratively speaking.  Occupy changed the conversation from evaluating the worth of individuals by how much profit they can make for the few to focus on correcting the results of the gross inequality that ideology created and ending the Second Gilded Age.

(This piece was written for the latest podcast of Left Ungagged @ https://leftungagged.org/2017/11/17/building-utopia/ ; my piece starts at 2:28.20

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