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Fourth International, January 1945


The Editors

The Heritage Of Lenin


From Fourth International, vol.6 No.1, January 1945, pp.3-4.
Transcribed, marked up & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.


Victor Serge relates in his pamphlet From Lenin to Stalin how he described Lenin to Segui, one of the leaders of the CNT (Spanish Anarchist Trade Unions): “Bolshevism,” I said, “is the unity of word and deed. Lenin’s entire merit consists in his will to carry out his program ... Land to the peasants, factories to the working class, power to those who toil. These words have often been spoken, but no one has ever thought seriously of passing from theory to practice. Lenin seems to be on the way ...”

“You mean,” said Segui, bantering and incredulous, “that socialists are going to apply their program? Such a thing has never been seen ...”

“I explained that just this was going to happen in Russia.”

Victor Serge was right. Lenin meant business. Others only talked; but Lenin was in dead earnest all his political life about building a combat revolutionary organization that could and would lead the revolution. Lenin was the supreme architect of the proletarian revolution, the pioneer of Bolshevism, the founder and builder of the Bolshevik Party – that indispensable instrumentality without which the October 1917 revolution could never have triumphed.

At a time when the whole Socialist movement consisted of loose, sprawling, easy-going parties, with an accommodating attitude toward every perversion of the Marxist program; in the period when the whole of Social Democracy was beginning to fall victim to opportunism; when party work was designed primarily for the winning of electoral successes and conducting loyal oppositions in the various bourgeois parliaments and legislative assemblies, Lenin came forward and pioneered an entirely new type of revolutionary Marxist party, never before seen in history. Lenin’s party was tight-knit, compact, bound by an iron discipline, based upon unyielding adherence to Marxism – the science of the proletarian revolution. Lenin’s party was built for revolutionary combat. It was designed specifically to launch the revolutionary offensive against the citadel of capitalism. How eloquent are Zinoviev’s words in his speech on Lenin and how much they tell us of the real Lenin when he says: Lenin never permitted anybody to insult Marx. No! How could he? Lenin was no dabbler, no dilettante. Lenin was deadly serious about the proletarian revolution. How could he therefore tolerate any light-mindedness or playfulness toward the theory of scientific socialism?

Lenin was not the only left-winger in the Second International. The Socialist movement had many other great revolutionary leaders. Some like Rosa Luxemburg had a masterful understanding of Marxism and possessed superb talents. But they did not comprehend the indispensability of a Leninist-type party. Only Lenin fully understood, fully grasped what kind of party the proletariat needed in order to triumph. And he had the iron will to drive through despite all opposition and calumny and create that kind of a revolutionary party. Just as the Paris Commune revealed to the working class the form of its rule, the form under which the Dictatorship of the Proletariat would be exercised, so Lenin’s Bolshevik Party showed in practice the type of organization the proletariat must have in order to make the revolution and secure its victory.

The German proletariat paid dearly for this lack, for the absence of a Leninist party. In 1918,the revolution rose in Germany and the whole country was covered with a network of Soviets. But the revolutionary vanguard, the Spartacists, were unprepared. They had not yet forged a genuine revolutionary party, closely tied to the working class and capable of leading it in action. The revolution inevitably rolled over their heads and the Social Democratic traitors were able to deflect and abort the revolution. It was different in Russia. A year before in 1917,when revolutionary conditions ripened, Lenin was ready. The Bolsheviks under Lenin seized the favorable opportunity and led the greatest revolution in the history of mankind. Marxism found its highest historical expression and vindication in Bolshevism.

Lenin and Marx

Lenin stands on an equal plane of eminence with Marx, but his main contribution to the cause of Socialism is of a different character. Marx, that awe-inspiring genius, was the father, the creator of Scientific Socialism. No one, since his time, has been his equal in the field of social thought, in originality, in the breadth-taking sweep of his ideas, in his powers of analysis. Lenin always prided himself on being an orthodox Marxist. Lenin defended Marxism on all fronts against all comers, against all its traducers. Lenin, with the insight of genius, took the Marxist theory and enriched it immeasurably in practice. He vindicated it in action. Trotsky once gave voice to this thought:

“All of Marx,” he wrote, “is contained in the Communist Manifesto, in the foreword of his Critique and in Capital. Even if he had not been the founder of the First International, he would have always remained what he is. Lenin, on the contrary, lives entirely in revolutionary action. Had he not published a single book in the past, he would none the less appear in history that which he is now, as the leader of the proletarian revolution, as the founder of the Third International.”

Above all else, above all his other contributions – and they are immense – Lenin looms as the supreme working class leader of action, who showed by example what kind of a party the working class needs to make the revolution, who showed in action how to build that kind of a revolutionary party and how to win the masses to its banner. Lenin is the master builder of socialism, the master strategist, the master tactician of the proletarian revolution, of the application of Marxism in this epoch of wars and revolutions.

And today, on the 21st anniversary of his death, the thoughts of all revolutionary militants turn again to the teachings and heritage of our great revolutionary master. For today, as the war grinds towards its sixth year, as humanity is crushed beneath the burdens of famine and cruel death, it is once more becoming clear that there is no answer to the endless horrors of decaying capitalism, but Lenin’s program of 1917. All signs point moreover, that as in 1917, a new gigantic revolutionary explosion is approaching. We already see in Europe the vindication once again of Lenin’s slogan of the first world war: Turn the imperialist war into civil war. After twenty years of unexampled defeats and reaction on a world-wide scale, the working class is lifting its head and girding its loins for struggle. The class struggle is reasserting itself above the din and roar of the cannon.

Trotsky wrote in The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International that “the historical crisis of mankind is reduced to the crisis of the revolutionary Leadership,” that the working class again and again has moved onto the road of revolution but each time finds itself blocked and thwarted by its own opportunist leaders. The crisis of the proletarian leadership has led to the numerous tragic defeats prior to the outbreak of the present war and it opened the road to the capitalists’ plunging mankind into the bloodbath of this new world war. The crisis of the proletarian leadership has become the crisis of western civilization itself. Mankind will find no other road of salvation, no other way to put an end to the bestialities and horrors of war than the road of Lenin in October 1917. For the revolutionary vanguard there is also no other program and method than that of Lenin. The revolutionary vanguard therefore is duty-bound to prepare itself more thoroughly for the tasks that lie ahead by absorbing more fully the method employed by Lenin to forge the Bolshevik party. The revolutionary vanguard must attempt to recapture his firmness, his unyielding struggle for principle, his iron determination to build the party, his indestructible conviction of the triumph of the workers’ revolution and the Socialist future of mankind. Thus and only thus will the gap be bridged and the revolutionary vanguard become the acknowledged leader, the acknowledged spokesman of the millioned masses.

Returning to Lenin does not mean to divorce oneself from the present struggle and retiring to read his Collected Works. Such an approach to Lenin would be utterly pedantic, utterly undialectical, utterly un-Lenin like. To really study Lenin, one must study his literary works in connection with his activities, and this must be linked up with the present-day struggles. Bolshevism as a tendency of the working class movement was founded and pioneered by Lenin, but it has by no means died with Lenin. Bolshevism, a quarter of a century ago, crossed the borders of Russia and extended itself on an international scale, with the foundation of the Third International. After the victory of the Thermidorian reaction in the Soviet Union in 1923, Bolshevism, in the form of Trotsky’s Left Opposition, broke with the Kremlin bureaucracy and its degenerating Comintern. In every respect, the Trotskyist movement, represents the continuation of Lenin’s work and struggle, the movement of living Bolshevism. Throughout twenty years of bitter reaction and cruel working class defeats, it has held the banner, the proud banner of the October revolution, aloft. In this period of sweeping world reaction, the small band of Bolshevik-Leninists, the Trotskyists, could not prevent, because of their weakness, the loss of positions previously won by the working class, could not prevent because of the unfavorable relationship of forces, the defeats of revolutions. But it could and did prevent the loss of the ideological positions. It swam against the current. Hounded, jeered at from all sides, persecuted, it continued its work with calmness, with assurance and with faith in the coming upsurge, in the spirit of Lenin during his days of emigration. Under the leadership and guidance of its genius leader, Leon Trotsky, it studied closely all the working class defeats, analyzed the causes and mistakes, exposed the crimes and betrayals, and prepared the ground for the new revolutionary offensive once the historical tide rose again.

And after twenty years of hard work, of study, of struggle, the Fourth International, the movement of living Bolshevism, has hammered out a finished program, has welded together a tested cadre, has created a firm organizational structure. It stands today, just as Lenin’s small band of Bolshevik internationalists during the last war, unyielding, intransigent, confident of its destiny to lead the working class in the next great revolutionary offensive, confident of its future successes and its final triumph.

But the Fourth International stands on higher grounds than did the Bolshevik cadre of the last war. First, the cadre of the Fourth International exists on a truly international scale. It is also stronger, more firm. Because the Fourth International has the advantage not only of its own experiences of twenty years of struggle, but stands also on the shoulders of Lenin, the Bolsheviks, and the great October 1917 revolution. It is impossible to be a Leninist today and circumvent or skip over this movement of living Leninism, the Fourth International, just as it is impossible to “return” to Marxism, in the manner of the Social Democrats and philistines, by skipping over Lenin and Bolshevism, by skipping over the October revolution.

Lenin, the individual, the working class leader of genius, is dead. And dead also is his co-worker Leon Trotsky, the founder and builder of the Fourth International, whose name the October revolution linked indissolubly and for all time with that, of Lenin. But the Bolshevik movement they built lived on and will in due course triumph throughout the world.

Resolution On Lenin’s Report

On the basis of these theses and the reports of the delegates from the different countries the Congress of the Communist International declares that the chief task of the Communist Parties in all countries where Soviet power does not yet exist, consists in the following:

  1. The explanation to the wide masses of the working class of the historical significance and of the political and historical inevitability of the new proletarian democracy, which must be put in the place of bourgeois democracy and of parliamentarianism.
  2. The spreading and, organization of Soviets among the workers in all sections of industry and among the soldiers of army and fleet, and also among the agricultural laborers and poor peasants.
  3. The formation inside the Soviets of a firm communist majority. (Founding Conference, March 1919.)

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