Main FI Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Fourth International, January-February 1951


The Editors

On the 27th Anniversary of Lenin’s Death

Leninism Lives!


From Fourth International, Vol.11 No.1, January-February 1951, pp.26-27.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


It is 27 years since Lenin died. Every day, around the clock, since then, the parasitic Soviet bureaucracy with its huge resources and world-wide machine, under the leadership of Stalin, has labored to subvert the teachings of Lenin, to snuff out the spirit of Leninism and to convert this titan of the proletarian revolution into an ikon. In vain. Leninism lives.

Leninism lives in the mighty challenge of the Asian peoples to world imperialism, whose echoes are today reverberating throughout America. Leninism lives in the struggle of the Balkan peoples, in the first instance in Yugoslavia, where capitalist rule has been discarded and the domination of the Stalinist bureaucracy rejected. Leninism lives in the stirrings of the West European working class to free the old continent from the bondage of the Dollar which alone props up bankrupt European capitalism.

Leninism lives above all in the world movement of Trotskyism, the conscious expression of the needs and tasks of the insurgent masses, that alone rises to the level now demanded by history.

The European bourgeoisie, and its arrogant counterpart across the Atlantic, have long been prepared “for any and all savageries, bestialities and crimes in order to defend the doomed slavery of capitalism,” as Lenin pointed out in 1913. The Russian Revolution, headed by Lenin and Trotsky demonstrated for the first time that this system of enslavement and degradation could be swept from our planet.

Today capitalism in alliance with the most barbaric survivals of Asia’s past is being pulverized by the Chinese, Korean, Indo-Chinese and other Asian masses. The same forces unleashed in Czarist Russia in October 1917, and organized by Lenin’s genius, are now at work in the colonial world. Lenin’s incomparable revolutionary role was graphically preserved for us by his friend, the famous Russian writer Gorki. A cultured Frenchman once accosted him with the following query: “Don’t you find that Lenin is a guillotine equipped with a human brain?”

”The workings of his thought,” said Gorki, “I would compare with the strokes of a sledge-hammer which, possessed of vision, pulverizes into dust that which should have been annihilated long ago.”

The National Question

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the first of this highest school of thought who walked this earth, discovered the central power-house of revolution and progress, where those before them at best decried poverty or bemoaned misery. Lenin, a man equal in stature to his genius-teachers and standing on their shoulders, was able to discover the revolutionary aspect of the super-exploited and super-oppressed nationalities and colonial peoples.

And here it is fitting to yield the floor to Lenin’s great co-worker and continuator, Leon Trotsky had the following to say about Lenin’s theory of the role of the national problem in the epoch of the world proletarian revolution – a discovery matched in importance only by the discovery of the labor-theory of value (Marx) and by the theory of the permanent revolution (Trotsky):

“While depicting how capitalism draws into its vortex backward and barbarous countries,” wrote Trotsky in 1937, “the (Communist) Manifesto contains no reference to the struggle of colonial and semi-colonial countries for independence. To the extent that Marx and Engels considered the social revolution ‘in the leading civilized countries at least,’ to be a matter of the next few years, the colonial question was resolved automatically for them, not in consequence of an independent movement of oppressed nationalities, but in consequence of the victory of the proletariat in the metropolitan centers of capitalism. The questions of revolutionary strategy in colonial and semi-colonial countries are therefore not touched upon at all by the Manifesto. Yet these questions demand an independent solution. For example, it is quite self-evident that while the ‘national fatherland’ has become the most baneful historical brake in advanced capitalist countries, it still remains a relatively progressive factor in backward countries compelled to struggle for an independent existence.”

This “independent solution” was provided by Lenin. “The credit for developing revolutionary strategy for oppressed nationalities belongs primarily to Lenin,” Trotsky points out.

World Historic Import

Its historical importance was likewise elucidated by Trotsky:

“A complete purge of feudal rubbish from society is conceivable only on the condition that the proletariat, freed from the influence of bourgeois parties, can take its stand at the head of the peasantry and establish its revolutionary dictatorship. By this token, the bourgeois revolution becomes interlaced with the first stage of the socialist revolution, subsequently to dissolve in the latter. The national revolution therewith becomes a link of the world revolution. The transformation of the economic foundation and of all social relations assumes a permanent (uninterrupted) character. For revolutionary parties in backward countries of Asia, Latin America and Africa, a clear understanding of the organic conniection between the democratic revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat – and thereby, the international socialist revolution – is a life-and-death question.”

The world-shaking significance of Lenin’s discovery is now being proved to the hilt in the revolutionary developments in Asia, particularly in China, and in the long-oppressed Balkans, above all in Yugoslavia. Further advance by the revolution in these areas can only take the line of development traced by the great architects of the victorious October.

The Russian Revolution and its leaders armed the coming Asian revolution not only spiritually but materially as well. It was under Lenin that all Czarist privileges in China were abrogated. Thereby the colonial masses received a practical lesson on how the imperialist yoke could be cast off. Later on, in the early Twenties, the Soviet Republic supplied arms and ammunition to the national revolution in China, then headed by the bourgeois revolutionist Sun Yat Sen. With remarkable breadth of vision, it also initiated the organization of the Whampoa Military Academy. That West Point of rising China trained military leadership for both sides in the civil war that ensued, but it also proved indispensable for the organization of the future anti-imperialist armies, not only in China, but in Korea and elsewhere in Asia.

Despite the subsequent treachery of the Stalinist bureaucracy the early impetus given by Leninism to the Asian revolution has thus brought forth the most serious threat to imperialism the world has yet seen. The record of Stalin’s treachery and its relation to the complicated problems of the Chinese and Asian revolution is a subject for an independent study. Suffice it here to note that great as that treachery has been, the power of Lenin and Trotsky’s October is nevertheless emerging as the force impelling oppressed Asia to victory over imperialism. It is a token of the coming triumph of Leninism over the Stalinist bureaucracy on a world scale.

* * *

That which came from the Russian peasant in Lenin combined with Marxism proved more than sufficient to wipe out Czarism and to rid the Russian people of the rule of landlords and capitalists forever. Our readers will be able to gather for themselves what a force was generated by this unequalled combination from the first article by Leon Trotsky that follows. What will Leninism combined with the native ingenuity of the Asian masses produce? This our generation, and especially the youth, is privileged to witness with its own eyes.

The two articles by Leon Trotsky we republish appeared up to 1923 in commemorative literature published in the Soviet Union on the successive anniversaries of Lenin’s death, until Stalinism rose. The translation from the Russian text is by John G. Wright. – Editor.

Leon Trotsky:

Lenin – On His Fiftieth Birthday (1920)

Lenin Dead (1924)

Top of page

Main FI Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on: 23 March 2009