Lenin on Socialism and the Party in the Long Revolution

  • Neil Harding


The Long Russian Revolution climaxed in the Red Army overthrow of the Kronstadt Commune in March 1921, and with it died the idea of freedom as universal participation in all the aspects of deciding and implementing public policy. This, Marx’s idea of the socialism of the Paris Commune, had been ardently embraced by Lenin as constitutive of both the means and the goal of the revolution in Russia. It breathed the ethos and practice of the soviets, which were the revolution’s real driving forces and the source of its international appeal. By 1921, the Bolsheviks were isolated both internationally and internally. Peasants were in revolt, towns depopulated, the proletariat decimated by war, hunger and disease. Industry was at a virtual standstill. Bolshevik support had shrunk disastrously. It was in this setting that a new legitimating rationale was appealed to that had some warrant in Marx’s accounts of the dictatorship of the proletariat, but derived more from Bukharin’s analysis of the deep costs of revolution and the consequent leading role of the Party/State in redeeming them. As the minoritarian monopoly capitalists had sustained their class power through control of the state apparatus and the heights of the economy, so the Communists could only keep the glimmer of socialism alive by doing likewise. They would, however, have to redefine socialism itself. It was no longer the realization of a mode of free activity and being, it was, rather, a condition of things. It inhered in the rational application of investments, the acquisition of managerial expertise, and the discipline and organization of labor best fitted to the extraction of the maximal production of goods from scarce resources. Socialism would stand or fall as a more rational and scientific mode of production than capitalism.


Socialism Revolution Party Marxism Imperialism Bukharin Commune Dictatorship Factory committees Soviets Workers’ opposition Kronstadt rebellion Intellectuals Dialectics 


  1. Althusser, L., Lenin and Philosophy, London (Hereafter L.) 1962.Google Scholar
  2. Anweiler, O., The Soviets, New York (Hereafter N. Y.) 1974.Google Scholar
  3. Brinton, M., The Bolsheviks and Workers’ Control, 1917–1921, L., 1975. Google Scholar
  4. ———, Economics and Politics of the Transformation Period, N. Y., 1971.Google Scholar
  5. Bukharin, N. I., K teorii imperialisticheskogo gosudarststva in Revoliutsia Prava, no. 25, Moscow, 1938.Google Scholar
  6. ———, Imperialism and World Economy, N.Y., 1929.Google Scholar
  7. Communist Party of the Soviet Union, History of the CPSU (Bolsheviks) Short Course, Moscow, 1938.Google Scholar
  8. Deutscher, I. Trotsky, 3 vols., Oxford, 1954, 63, 69.Google Scholar
  9. Frankel, E.J. and B. Knei-Paz, Revolution in Russia, L., 1992.Google Scholar
  10. Harding, N., Lenin’s Political Thought, 2 vols. in one, Chicago, 2009.Google Scholar
  11. ———, “Bukharin and the State,” in A. Kemp-Welch, (ed.) The ideas of Nikolai Bukharin, Oxford, 1992.Google Scholar
  12. ———, “The early Marx and the decomposition of Marxism,” in Studies in Marxism, vol. 1; ‘Making and breaking the proletariat,’ in Intellectuals and Politics, eds. A. Kemp-Welch and J. Jennings, L., 1997; “The Marxist–Leninist detour”, in J. Dunn, Democracy, the Unfinished Journey, Oxford, 1992.Google Scholar
  13. Hilferding, R., Finanzkapital, Wien, 1910.Google Scholar
  14. Lenin V.I., Collected Works in 45 vols., L., 1960–1970.Google Scholar
  15. Lewin, M., Lenin’s Last Struggle, L., 1969.Google Scholar
  16. Lukács, G., Lenin: A Study on the Unity of his Thought, L., 1970.Google Scholar
  17. ———, Selected Correspondence, ed D. Torr, L., 1936.Google Scholar
  18. Luxemburg, R., The Russian Revolution, Ann Arbor, 1961.Google Scholar
  19. Marx K. and Engels F., Collected Works, L., 1975.Google Scholar
  20. ———, Selected Works in 2 vols., Moscow, 1962.Google Scholar
  21. Maximoff, G.P., The Political Philosophy of Bakunin, L., 1953.Google Scholar
  22. Pipes, R., Revolutionary Russia, L., 1968.Google Scholar
  23. Rigby, T.H., Lenin’s Government, Sovnarkom, 1917–1922, Cambridge, 1979.Google Scholar
  24. Rosenberg, W., Workers and Workers’ Control in the Russian Revolution, History Workshop, 1978.Google Scholar
  25. Service, R., Lenin: A Political Life, 3 vols., L., 1985, 91, 95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. ———, The Russian Revolution, L., 1999.Google Scholar
  27. Smith, S.A., Red Petrograd: Revolution in the Factories 1917–1918, Cambridge, 1983.Google Scholar
  28. Stites, R., Revolutionary Dreams, Oxford, 1981.Google Scholar
  29. Trotsky, L., Terrorism and Communism, Ann Arbor, 1962.Google Scholar
  30. Wade, R., Red Guards and Workers’ Militias in the Russian Revolution, Stanford, 1984.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Neil Harding
    • 1
  1. 1.University of SwanseaSwanseaUK

Personalised recommendations