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The legacy of anarchism

The Dilemmas of Lenin: Terrorism, War, Empire, Love, Revolution
Forfatter: Tariq Ali
How did Lenin really think during the Revolutionary years? Tariq Ali brings both news and non-traditional perspectives.


I The Dilemmas of Lenin: Terrorism, War, Empire, Love, Revolution Ali aims to put Lenin and the Russian revolution in a new light – something he is far from succeeding in. Already in the introduction, he states that the October Revolution was in the highest degree a revolution, not a coup. Much of what follows then lends itself to proving this claim. Here, the British academic debate clearly does not differ much from the Norwegian one; Of course, the coup theory also has many supporters in the British milieus.

Without Lenin, there would have been no Russian revolution.

Ali's Lenin portrait contrasts in many ways with the Western tradition, and in this connection he points out that Lenin's most cynical quotes are often taken from the Civil War era, when the government he led stood in the midst of a fundamental war for survival. The quotes are frequently used in Lenin biographies of the Cold War, and have formed a school for the West's perception of the Russian.

Distance to anarchism.
I The Dilemmas of Lenin instead, Lenin as a living human being and power politician emerges. Ali sees his protagonist as rooted in two political cultures: the anarchist tradition in Russia, and the social-democratic world movement with Germany as the main actor. The Russian left-wing in the 1800th century is in many ways the story of a desperate and violent anarchist student activism as a strategy against a powerhouse of feudalist structure. Lenin's older brother, as is well known, participated in this movement and was executed after taking part in an assassination attempt against the Tsar.

Lenin distanced himself from Russian anarchism's violence strategy and joined the newly formed Russian Social Democratic Party. Still, there are traces of Lenin's anarchism, Ali believes: Where other party members often voted for passivity, Lenin stood for an activist line, believing that spontaneous actions could in themselves trigger insurgency in the population.

Social democracy movement. It is often mentioned that Orthodox Marxism prevailed in the German Social Democratic Party from the 1880s until the outbreak of the war in 1914. The German Social Democrats were leaders in the International and the Lenin Party. Ali mentions that Karl Marx completed Das Kapital in the years before his death, and that the book laid the foundation for the social-democratic movement from the 1880s until the turn of the century. Marx's thesis that a bourgeois revolution had to precede a proletariat's revolution led to widespread paralysis within the circle of the Russian revolutionaries in 1917. With the exception of a handful in the party, few followed Lenin's activist and power-seeking line early this year. The author recalls that Stalin, among other things, was initially opposed to the strategy that broke with the February Revolution and which led to the October Revolution. Ali states early on that without Lenin, there would have been no Russian revolution.

Ali emphasizes that Lenin never lost sight of the fact that the board had a popular mandate.

Lenin, like many others, studied the Paris Commune of 1871. Often Lenin's attitude to this is summarized as "too much preoccupation with discussing principles, and too little preoccupation with the practicalities of holding power". From this it is often deduced that Lenin was a cynical thinker of power in the Machiavellian spirit. In this tradition, Stalin is therefore seen as a natural consequence of Lenin.

Ali's point of view is different: The author finds in his readings that the Parisian municipality most often serves as a positive ideal for Lenin, who among other things admired the Parisian community gained when it came to direct national government.

Crush the Citizenship State. Ali is also very keen on Lenin's book The State and the Revolution, which he naturally reads in the context of how the Russian eventually envisioned the conquest of power in contemporary times. The consistent power perspective in the book is known from before, but Ali also finds another red thread in the work, namely that the will to power is in tension with the ideal of democracy and workers' rule. The state and the revolution were a natural response to what Lenin had seen of the imperialist wars and states' power politics of the time. The book was also an input into the social-democratic discussion about what social conditions must exist before a workers revolution could take place. From the State and the revolution, Lenin sees the state as more and more central to the bourgeois social control. In his opinion, the bourgeoisie relies on controlling the state to trigger conflicts, such as the First World War. The road to socialism, therefore, is to conquer and crush the bourgeois state, and transform it into a state directly ruled by the people / working class.

Ali emphasizes that Lenin never lost sight of the fact that the board had a popular mandate. The author believes that the Civil War caused much to be postponed, but that Lenin never forgot this principle. In his political testament, Lenin returns to the fact that the revolution must be directed at a people's government and not lost in a party dictatorship from above.

Ambivalence. Throughout the book, Ali shows an ambivalence towards what was the outcome of the Russian revolution. The author has his heroes and villains, like most other historians. Lenin and Trotsky are definitely among the former .; Stalin the opposite. With his background in both a post-colonial Pakistani minority and what one might call a British Sixties Generation, Ali believes that the existence of the Soviet Union, if nothing else, accelerated the end of colonialism. In addition, he devotes several chapters to study how the Soviet Union affected women's liberation. The author is open to the view that the Russian revolution could have had a different outcome than Stalin's regime did. Not least, he sees it as interesting that Putin's Russia today recognizes Stalin to some extent, but not the October Revolution.

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