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Three Titans

Labor Action, 27 January 1947


Arthur Stein

Lenin, Liebknecht, Luxemburg:

Three Titans of the Socialist Revolution


From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 4, 27 January 1947, p. 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


JANUARY 21 marks the twenty-second anniversary of the death of V.I. Lenin. It has become a tradition in our movement to note this date with meetings and articles in commemoration of this hero of history’s only successful proletarian revolution; the memory of Lenin continues with us as a symbol of a period in which the international working class saw its greatest triumphs and was imbued with a never-again-duplicated optimism and self-confidence.

Lenin was the product of a generation of revolutionary heroes – he was the contemporary of figures like Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg, and Leon Trotsky. One would search in vain for similar personalities in our time: the peculiar combination of an independent, imaginative and firm theoretical understanding, a spotless personal integrity, an absolutely selfless devotion to human progress, and a tireless energy and towering organizational genius is difficult to find in single individuals. This lack, of course, is but a manifestation of the differences between the time of Lenin and our own time.

A Man Who Led a Full Rich Life

Lenin’s life, completely centered around the struggle for human freedom, was certainly the fullest, richest, and most productive imaginable, It was one of the rare examples of an almost complete lack of waste: all of Lenin’s energies went into his life’s work. His contributions to revolutionary socialism are truly remarkable. He is the author of one of the most authoritative classics in the economic literature of the world – The Development of Capitalism in Russia. Lenin’s other major contributions to Marxist economic literature, Imperialism, and State and Revolution have long been one of the indispensable tools of our movement everywhere. But his selected and collected works contain some of his most important contributions on revolutionary politics, the class struggle, role of the party, economic and political questions.

In the course of the many polemics in which he engaged the opponents of Marxism from all sides, Lenin produced many interesting contributions to the literature of Marxist philosophy. His most important work in that field is Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, which he completed in 1908. A volume called Marx-Engels-Marxism contains a collection of his shorter writings on this subject.

In any attempt to evaluate the significance of all Lenin’s life, however, what should be pointed to as his most important objective achievement is probably his revolutionary seriousness, manifested in his constant insistence on translating Marxist theory into practice. With Lenin, Marxism was above all a guide to action. For the first time in history, conditions had provided an atmosphere in which Marx’s Capital could have practical meaning in the daily lives of many millions of people, and Lenin was impatient with all those who shrunk from the necessary boldness to seize this opportunity.

It is under the heading of this quality of fearlessly drawing practical conclusions from theoretic beliefs that we must place Lenin’s role in splitting the revolutionists away from the Russian social democracy, his immediate and firm anti-war position in 1914, his call for proletarian power in April 1917 and, finally, his struggle against opportunism and the founding of the Communist International.


A few words should be said about the “epigones” of Lenin, those of his professed disciples who make it a practice to pervert and to falsify his doctrines. These, of course, are Stalin and his followers, whose sickening adulatory excesses concerning Lenin are equalled only by their degradingly ludicrous self-praise.

Stalin’s complete ideological alienation from Leninism has again and again been demonstrated by Trotsky in his various writings; there can be no common ground anywhere between the spirit of totalitarian police terror of the Stalin regime and the scrupulously defended personal liberties, the spirit of Socialist freedom, and the democratic discussions under Lenin’s leadership in the Bolshevist party. The “communism” of Stalin bears the same relationship to the communism of Lenin as the “Democratic” designation of Bilbo bears to the real spirit and practice of democracy.


There remains now the problem of what Lenin can mean to our struggle for socialism today. As I have tried to indicate above, it would be absurd to assume that the period of Lenin is identical with the period in which we live. But to say that we do not today witness proletarian revolutions, as in Lenin’s day, is not the same as saying that such a period will not or cannot come again.

Lenin will always be one of the greatest of the teachers of our movement. As long as capitalism remains, his contributions to the theory and practice of socialism will remain relevant. But above and beyond that, his memory will remain for us a symbol of the heroic tradition of which we are the legitimate heirs; it will continue, above all, to be a symbol of the socialist future toward which we strive.

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Last updated on 29 November 2020