Lenin and Canada
April 22, 1970, will be the 100th anniversary of Lenin’s birth. This centennial will be marked by special activities all over the world. The United nations organization, governments, communist parties and other organizations of the working class and peace-loving democratic people in all walks of life will honor the memory of Lenin. Communist parties and all those who hold dear the ideal of the brotherhood of man through socialism, will pay tribute by organizing public activities which will help to raise ever higher the banner of Leninism, the guiding theory of the revolutionary working-class movement.
Lenin died on January 21, 1924. In his short lifetime of less than 54 years he accomplished more in the actual political transformation of the world and its social relations than any other political leader who has ever lived. On the theoretical foundation that Marx and Engels had established, Lenin founded the first and the decisive edifice — the first workers and peasants socialist state, the Soviet Socialist Republic.
Lenin’s life and work were the most perfect expression of the axiom “Hitch your wagon to a star.” The star to which he dedicated his life and his work was the ideal of the abolition of the exploitation of man by man and the oppression of nation by nation: the ideal of communism. That lofty aim possessed him. It became his beacon. His passion for it burned in him like a flame. He fought for the achievement of this ideal with all the power of his mighty intellect and with an energy and enthusiasm that never waned.
Early in life Lenin grasped the decisive fact that Marxism is destined to play a unique role in mankind’s advance from the age of necessity to the age of freedom. His studies revealed that the unique role of Marxism is indispensable to the working class because it is the only integral world viewpoint which corresponds with and points the way forward for the historical advance of mankind.
He was one of the relatively few men of his time who grasped the significance of the fact that, because Marxism is not a dogma, but a living guide to action, men’s attitudes to it, even their understanding of it, is bound to reflect changes that take place in social life and, therefore, its principles must be fought for afresh in every generation. A profound sense of direct responsibility personified Lenin. It made it mandatory for him to search out the correct Marxist answer to every problem, even those that appeared to be not very important at that time. That was an essential element in the single-minded purposefulness that characterized his life and his work. His purposefulness was matched only by his penetrating genius. It was the combination of these two attributes which made Lenin’s works so extraordinarily creative.
An example of his concern for correct answers is provided un What Is to Be Done. Emphasizing the importance of struggle on the theoretical front, he wrote: “Without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement. This idea cannot be emphasized too strongly.” Then he proceeded to point out that there was at that time in tsarist Russia a revival of non-party and non-Marxist revolutionary trends. Some pf these trends might appear to be only shades of difference from Marxism. But, wrote Lenin, “...Under these circumstances, what at first sight appears to be an ‘unimportant’ error may lead to the most deplorable consequences....The fate of Russian Social-Democracy for very many years to come may depend on the strengthening of one or the other ‘shade’.” (Engels, On the Importance of the Theoretical Struggle. What Is to Be Done. Collected Works, Vol. 5, pp. 369-70). He emphasized there a neglected reality of political activity that every communist party in the world needs to bear in mind, every day of the week. Lenin was the implacable foe of dogmatism, but he fought consistently, sometimes fiercely, for the purity of Marxism. He was unequivocally opposed to any element of sectarianism, but he fought without quarter for the party; to keep the party united and protect it from penetration by bourgeois ideology or non-Marxist organizational ideas. He insisted that discipline is an essential element in the success of a revolutionary party. He fought tirelessly to strengthen it in the Bolshevik Party. But his fight was to achieve the high level of conviction among the members and supporters of the party which, by its quality and intensity alone, ensures that firm discipline is the voluntary expression of each member’s conviction that the party’s line is correct.
It was precisely that quality of its discipline which enabled the Bolshevik Party to practice such flexibility in its day-to-day activities without suffering any fuzziness in its political aim and guidance. Lenin expressed this in his thesis that: “Tactics must be debated...But in all these discussions the party of a class engaged in a struggle should never loose sight of the need for absolutely clear answers — which do not permit a double interpretation...(Vol. 9, p. 262. Lenin’s emphasis — T.B.)
One of the mist striking examples of the value of Lenin’s fight for correct Marxist answers is his struggle for clarity concerning the revolution of 1905. This example is very instructive for us in Canada today. In his masterpiece Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Russian Revolution written during July 1905 in the heat of the revolution, Lenin elaborated a number of his supremely important tactical concepts. For example, the whole scientific theory of the struggle for allies of the proletariat in the revolution was developed in that little book. Another very important subject elaborated in that book is Lenin’s theory of uninterrupted revolution. The Trotskyites pretend to believe that Lenin’s theory of uninterrupted revolution and the one formulated by Trotsky later, upon which he bestowed the high-sounding title of The Permanent Revolution, are similar. That is not true. There is no similarity between them and only Lenin’s theory is correct.
As I said, Lenin’s theory of the uninterrupted revolution was elaborated in his book entitled Two Tactics. But what makes that book of decisive importance is the fact that, if Lenin had not written it, and carried through to victory the severe ideological struggle that he had to fight to unite the party around the line that he set forth in it, the Great October Revolution, as we know it, would have not taken place.
It can be said, and I think it is true, that the war-time crisis created by tsarism and the capitalist class would have almost certainly have made revolution unavoidable. But without the correct line and the understanding for which Lenin had fought an unrelenting struggle for 12 years, and for which he had won ideological authority in the party and among party supporters, without that, the revolution would have been diverted. The fruits of its victories would have been dissipated, exactly as was done a year later in the German Revolution of 1918. The workers and soldiers won tremendous victories in the German Revolution. They swept the country and had the red flag flying over hundreds of towns that were governed by councils of workers and soldiers. But the right-wing leaders of the Social-Democratic Party transformed it; from the beginning of the building of socialist society, into preparation of the soil of Germany for Hitlerism.
In 1905 the revolution was crushed and moods of doubt and depression set in. In addition, there was rapid expansion of industry in Russia and growth of the middle class. Lenin did not belittle these developments. He did not pretend that they made no difference to the Communist Party; on the contrary, he pointed out that in the circumstances it was inevitable that there should emerge a re-estimation of all values, a new study of fundamental problems. His response to that new situation is still applicable to situations that arise in every capitalist society from time to time. It is illustrated by the following, which he wrote in 1910:
It is precisely because Marxism is not a lifeless dogma, not a completed, ready-made, immutable doctrine, but a living guide to action, that it was bound to reflect the astonishingly abrupt change in the conditions of social life. That change was reflected in profound disintegration and disunity, in every manner of vacillation, in short, in a very serious internal crisis of Marxism. Resolute resistance to this disintegration, a resolute and persistent struggle to uphold the fundamentals of Marxism, was again placed on the order of the day. (Vol. 17, p. 42)
Part of the struggle that was again placed on the order of the day was on a new field of activity for the Marxist party in Russia, namely, in the field of philosophy. The philosophical trend known as Empirio-Criticism (the theory that sensory experience is the only source of knowledge and absolute truth is not attainable by human thought) had gained popularity in Europe in the latter years of the 19th and in the early years of this century. Edouard Bernstein and his fellow revisionists seized upon it and they were followed by numerous right-wing social-democrats. The influence of Empirio-Criticism in the German Social-Democratic Party became so strong that, while Karl Kautsky never gave any word or sign that he agreed with them, he never opposed them or criticized this philosophical trend in the Vorwärts, the official organ of the Social-Democratic Party, of which he was editor-in-chief.
The argument put forward by the right-wing social democrats was that Empirio-Criticism made it much easier to approach people and made their party acceptable to a great many who otherwise would reject it on the ground of Marxist materialism. After the 1905 revolution was crushed, some members of the Bolshevik Party also succumbed to Empirio-Criticism. Some of them were very influential, even members of the central committee, such as Lunacharsky, Bogdanov and others. They influenced Maxim Gorky very strongly.
Lenin saw the fallacy of the so-called new philosophy. In addition to its fallacy as a philosophy, he saw also that it was playing an anti-working-class role, not only in Western Europe but within tsarist Russia also. The revisionist supporters of Edouard Bernstein were making it the philosophical support for their organized attempt to deny the validity of the Marxist theory of knowledge; of dialectical materialism. Lenin recognized that Empirio-Criticism was, in effect, the philosophy of revisionism. He decided that it must be exposed, refuted and destroyed philosophically within the party. His decision was a shock to many of his best friends. Some of them tried to dissuade him from it. They argued that public opposition to Empirio-Criticism at that time, in the face of the depression and disappointment that followed the crushing of the revolution, would split bring a split in the party. One of those who tried very hard to dissuade him was Maxim Gorky, a very dear personal friend. Gorky wrote to Lenin and urged that if he could not maintain a friendly attitude to those people who had succumbed to Empirio-Criticism he should at least be neutral; even if everybody knew that he was neutral only because he didn’t want to start a struggle within the party.
Lenin’s reply to Gorky’s appeal is a gem. The following excerpts are typical of the lengthy letter as a whole:
I have received your letter concerning my fight with the Machists. I quite understand and respect your feelings and I ought to say that I get something similar from my St. Petersburg friends, but I am very deeply concerned that you are mistaken.
You must understand — and you will, of course — that once a party man has become convinced that a certain doctrine is grossly fallacious and harmful, he is obliged to come out against it.
How can this be done? By “neutrality”? No. There cannot and will not be any neutrality on such an issue. (Vol. 34, pp. 338-39)
It came between him and Maxim Gorky for some time. His main philosophical counter-blow to Empirio-Criticism was his book Materialism and Empirio-Criticism: Critical Comments on a Reactionary Philosophy. To prepare this Lenin made a complete and detailed study of Empirio-Criticism and a completely new study of dialectical materialism and the roots of Marxist philosophy, the Marxist philosophy of truth. His book is a complete refutation not only of Empirio-Criticism but of all idealism in philosophy. It is also a beautifully lucid exposition of Marxist philosophy; of the materiality of the world, of the objective character of the laws which govern development in nature and society, and of the laws which govern development in nature and society, and of the process of the development of knowledge, the dialectics of relative and absolute truth. “Human thought then by its nature is capable of giving, and does give, absolute truth which is composed of a sum total of relative truths.” (Vol. 14, p. 142) He was a simple man. His power came from telling the truth. For Lenin, Marxism was in fact the integral unity of scientific theory and revolutionary practice. He recognized as the decisive element in Marxism its revolutionary dialectic. This was the reason why he was able in the heat of the October Revolution to bring the decisive weight of peasants to the side of the Bolsheviks against all of those who would have compromised with the bourgeoisie. He took over the agrarian program of the Social-Revolutionaries. The difference was that, whereas the Social-Revolutionaries wanted to restrict the revolution to the limited aims of their program, Lenin used it as one of the reforms necessary to strike at the foundations of capitalism and to bring the peasants overwhelmingly to the side of the working class. The same use of the revolutionary dialectics of Marxism is to be seen in the introduction of the New Economic Policy, and in his grasp of the relationship of the struggle to extend capitalist democracy to its revolutionary transformation from capitalist to socialist democracy.
Lenin’s use of the revolutionary dialectic of Marxism is emphasized most of all by what the socialist pundits of the capitalist part of the world, including the leadership of the Socialist Party of Canada at that time, had to say about the October Revolution. They all opposed it in the pretense that it was “contrary to all the tenets of Marxism.” What did Lenin have to say about such people? He ridiculed their pretensions to being Marxists. He pointed out that they had learned only the form of Marxism but had not thought through its revolutionary content. Instead of using Marxism as a guide to action, they were misusing it to rationalize their own evasion of struggle. History shows that he was right.
Just as Lenin’s principled struggle for correct Marxist theoretical conclusions ensured the victory of the Great October Revolution, so also his continuing fight saved the infant Workers’ and Peasants’ Republic from disaster more than once during the perilous early days of its existence. An outstanding example of this is his fight against the anarchists: you know there took place in the Soviet Republic during 1920 a widespread upsurge of anarchist activity. One anti-socialist idea being popularized was that the “free market” should be re-established. Another was that the direction of the country’s economy should be taken out of the hands of the government.
Lenin recognized that this was only discussion and seemingly discussion without any organizational centre. But, because of the widespread nature of this discussion it was influencing the trade union movement. Trotsky had seized upon it, not to join with the anarchists but to go into the trade union movement with a proposal of a syndicalist nature. He proposed that the trade unions must take over the task and responsibility of organizing socialist production. In addition there crystallized within the party a group which called itself “The Workers’ Opposition.” This group was led by influential members of the party, notably Kollontai and Shlyapnikov. Their program concretized the ideas that were being talked about throughout the country by the anarchists.
Lenin decided that this was dangerous, that to allow the 10th Congress to pass without challenging it could lead to disaster. He was already a sick man when he made up his mind that something must be done about it. It was the morning of the day when there was to be a conference of party activists preceding the national conference of the miners union. In that conference there would be members of the miners union and a number of communists from other unions in the city of Moscow. Lenin got up from a sick bed to address the conference. He started by apologizing. He said: “Comrades: I must first of all apologize for departing from the rules of procedure, for anyone wishing to take part in the debate should have heard the report, the second report and the speeches. I am so unwell, unfortunately, that I have been unable to do this. But I was able yesterday to read the principal printed documents and to prepare my remarks.” (Vol. 32, p. 19)
Lenin explained in all those debates that what he was fighting against was not yet an organization, as yet it was only a deviation. In various parts of the country, where the deviation was expressing itself, the expressions were not, as far as he knew, related organizationally to each other. But, he emphasized, the essence of what was going on pointed directly towards petty-bourgeois anarchist elements with their slogans of unrestricted trade. And, he declared: “In this period of mass hunger, and even famine in many parts of the country their invariable hostility to the dictatorship of the proletariat determines the essential character of this discussion. This mood has had a wide influence on the proletariat. It has an effect of the factories in Moscow, and a number of other provincial centres. This petty-bourgeois counter-revolution is undoubtedly more dangerous for us than Kolchak, Denikin and Yudenitch all put together.” (Vol. 32, p. 19) Rather strong words. And he continued: “They all come in demanding equality, freedom and a constituent assembly, and every time they prove to be nothing else but a conduit for the restoration of white-guard rule. This undoubtedly demands of the ruling party of communists and of the revolutionary elements of the proletariat a different attitude than the one we have time and time again displayed over the past year.”
The “Workers’ Opposition” headed by Kollontai and Shlyapnikov had produced a pamphlet entitled The Workers’ Opposition setting forth their program. In his address to the 10th Party Congress Lenin took a copy of that pamphlet and remarked: “Now, I must say that the discussion going on all over the country has produced very little so far except innumerable programs. I must confess that I haven’t had time to read all of them. But, this one is published by leading members of the party and has been distributed here in the party congress. I am going to read one paragraph.” And he quoted the following:
The organization of the management of the national economy is the function of an All-Russian Congress of Producers, organized in trade and industrial unions which shall elect a central body to run the whole of the national economy of the republic. (Vol. 32, p. 198)
Lenin said: “I don’ have to read any more of this pamphlet because these few words that I have quoted tell you everything. This is what the pamphlet is about and if it should be that there is anything else in it about something else, that is not important. This is the question that has got to be settled.”
And he proceeded to show that the proposal was, in its essence and its only possible meaning, an alternative to the dictatorship of the proletariat. He pointed out that if it was adopted, and put into effect, it would destroy the dictatorship of the proletariat, destroy the Soviet Republic and eventually it would destroy the trade union movement. And in that discussion which history records as the struggle against anarchists, Lenin succeeded in accomplishing two very important things. He transformed the debate that was going on in the trade union movement from an acrimonious, destructive debate about changing the character and the leadership of trade unions, into a qualitatively higher level of discussion concerning the tasks and role of the trade union movement in socialist society.
A similar attitude to problems marked Lenin’s assistance to the youth of his time. Militant young people, particularly militant young workers who want to find their way forward through the multiplicity of theories that are being offered to them today, could benefit tremendously by study and serious debate of the content of Lenin’s contributions to the development of the youth movements of his time. It is true that the youth of today live in different conditions. It could not be otherwise. We’re living in the epoch of the transition from capitalism to socialism. Because of the character of this epoch, world relationships are entirely different from what they were in Lenin’s day. The imperialist states no longer hold the world in their hands to decide between themselves what shall be done or, if they cannot reach a pirate’s agreement on division of the spoils, fight it out within the imperialist system. Socialism is changing the world.
In this changed environment the working class is playing a tremendously more influential role. Not only because the number of workers organized in unions in the world is four times greater today than it was then, but because of all the other social changes that have taken place. The role of the working class is going to continue becoming more and mire influential. These, and all the other changes that are implicit in them, have changed the conditions in which the youth face the future and prepare themselves for ti, particularly the majority of students. It has changed the forms of many of their problems and it has changed, almost completely, the forms of their activities.
It has brought about a situation where it is quite natural, just as it was quite natural for the Russian youth in 1903, to take the position that “we want to get where the action is.” That is a very commendable impulse. A readiness to get into action is an indispensable quality of a genuine revolutionary, particularly of a revolutionary fighter for socialism. That priceless readiness must be cherished and nurtured by the working-class movement. But for the will to act to contribute to the struggle for socialism, it needs to be guided by the science of Marxism. Explaining this inescapable necessity to young militants is an important part of the struggle for socialism. This task is the more important because there are young militants who proclaim themselves to be Marxists, and believe that they are Marxists, who want to distinguish themselves from the Communist Party and do so by making of supporting statements which, in effect, deny the unique role of Marxism in the struggle for socialism.
I have in mind right now a young person who proclaims himself to be a Marxist and simultaneously declares that he does not reject the ideas of Mao, or Che Guevara, or Debray, or Fischer, or even of Marcuse. Such catholicity of tastes, of interests, is usually accompanied by a comforting self-delusion that those who do recognize the unique role of Marxism are “dogmatic old people who never read anything fresh or new.”
Lenin’s advice to such young militants, yes, including young militants off the type who, nowadays, do not reject the point of view of Mao, etc., is quite appropriate today, particularly when it is understood, and utilized. He welcomed their desire for action and he praised them for it. But he explained to them and to the party that revolutionary sentiment alone cannot bring about ideological unity. For militant young workers and students to become effective fighters for socialism they must combine their desire for action with an understanding of the Marxist perspective of the path to socialism, and the line of action is to be effective they must strive to become Marxists.
That’s why Lenin always argued in favor of a distinct and organizationally independent communist youth organization. His view was that militant young workers who reject the idea of an integral world outlook are not necessarily lost to the revolutionary movement if they can be persuaded to join the communist youth organization, be brought into contact with Marxists, and encouraged to study Marxism. If they fall by the wayside in the process, that is just too bad. but they are not lost to Marxism simply because in their naive ebullience they declare “I don’t reject anything.” It is the task of the Communist Party to find ways and means of capturing the interest of such young people so that if they have a sincere desire to take part in the revolutionary movement they may be helped to learn how. He knew that some of them, perhaps only a very small percentage, would come to understand what he always described as “the old but eternally new truths of Marxism.” He was for a youth organization as the training ground for the party. And he wrote:
Organization of youth...which openly declare that they are still learning, that their main task is to train party workers for the socialist parties...must be given every assistance. We must be patient with their faults and strive to correct them gradually, mainly by persuasion, and not by fighting them. The middle-aged and the aged often do not know how to approach the youth, for the youth of necessity advance to socialism in a different way, by other paths, in other forms, in other circumstances than their fathers. Incidentally, that is why we must decidedly favor organizational independence of the Youth League. (Vol. 23, p.164)
That wasn’t bad for 66 years ago. A lot of us would do well to recognize the content of it. To those who are afraid that frank political discussions of such issues would be too dry for the youth, the opinion expressed by Lenin 50 years ago is every bit as true today.
A young worker who wishes to participate independently in deciding the destiny of his party will not wave aside polemics, even if they are not intelligible at first sight. But he will earnestly seek until he finds truth. (Vol. 19, p. 149)
It is the responsibility of the party to make that truth as evident and as easy to appreciate as it is humanly possible to do so.
Yes. Lenin was frank. And he was just as frank to the youth as he was to adults. Commenting on the militant youth journal Student in 1903, he polemicized against those among the students who talked grandiloquently of revolutionizing the student body in general instead of establishing a Marxist organization. He pointed out that in practice such talk became a substitute for establishing an organization which would take Marxism to the students.
Whoever protests against such a choice (a Marxist organization — T.B.) on the plea of effecting ideological unity amongst the students, of revolutionizing them in general and so forth, is obscuring socialist consciousness and is, in actual fact, preaching absence of ideological principles. (Vol. 7, pp. 43-56. Tasks of the Revolutionary Youth.)
The resolution that he wrote for the second congress of the Social-Democratic Party of Russia in 1903 was entitled “On Our Attitude Towards the Student Youth.” There again he welcomed the growing militancy of the students. He welcomed the fact that the Studenthad taken a stand in favor of political organization among the students. The resolution called upon party organizations to give all possible assistance to the efforts of the revolutionary students to organize and to the students the resolution appealed that they should organize into Marxist study groups, and imbue their members with a thorough acquaintance with Marxism. It warned them against false friends of the youth who divert them by recourse to empty ultra-revolutionary of idealistic phrase-mongering. For young Canadians who have a serious desire to know, Lenin is still one of the best guides in the building of a revolutionary youth movement.
I can’t go quite such lengths on other matters but I must mention the question of democracy. This is particularly important to the Canadian labor movement because, here, so many democratic people who are influenced by lying capitalist propaganda, labor under an impression that Lenin was against democracy and opposed to parliamentary action. He was one of the most democratic of men. In fact, he wrote before the First World War:
Whoever wants to reach socialism by any other path than that of political democracy, will inevitably arrive at conclusions that are absurd, and reactionary, both in the economic and political sense. (Vol. 9, p. 29)
But he taught democracy in the full sense of that term. He didn’t simply mean parliamentary democracy, (incidentally there were a great many more countries in his day in which there were no parliaments). He treated parliamentary democracy as just one of its many forms. He emphasized always that there is no such thing as pure democracy, no such thing as abstract democracy. Every example of democracy is concrete.
For example, democracy in Canada today is not exactly the same as in the United States. In France it is not the same as in Western Germany and so on. Between the democracy which suited the slave-owners of ancient Athens — or of the southern United States before the civil war — and democracy as we understand it in Canada today, it has been practiced in innumerable forms.
But, as Lenin pointed out, under the multitude of forms in which it can be practiced in class society: “Democracy also is domination of one part of the population by another.”
In Canada today, as in all capitalist countries, the part which dominates is mobilized in support of capitalist interests and aims. Even those who are able to make themselves believe that there is some substantial difference between the Liberal and Conservative parties have to agree that there is no difference between them on the principal question, namely, the maintenance of capitalism. That is why the rise of capitalism, its evolution to monopoly capitalism and hence to state-monopoly capitalism, and the avaricious greed which led Canadian capitalists as a class to sell control of our country to the great monopoly-capitalist interests in the United States “ all this is reflected in the history of parliamentary democracy in Canada. It is, in fact, part of the history of the process by which the capitalist class, through its chosen political representatives, systematically develops and improves its shield of parliamentary democracy which legalizes and protects the reality of class power, while masking it. Marx described it succinctly as the dictatorship of the capitalist class.
Recognition of this reality was always embodied in Lenin’s consistent emphasis upon the necessity for the working-class movement in capitalist society to press its struggle to extend capitalist democracy. Polemicizing against those who counterposed the struggle for democratic reforms to the struggle for socialism, he wrote in 1916:
It would be a radical mistake to think that the struggle for democracy was capable of divereting the proletariat form the socialist revolution of hiding, overshadowing it, etc. On the contrary...the proletariat cannot prepare for its victory over the bourgeoisie without an all-round consistent and revolutionary struggle for democracy. (Vol. 22, p. 144)
In his book “Left”-wing Communism — an Infantile Disorder Lenin ridiculed the self-styled “Lefts” who argued against parliamentary action on the ground that the institution of parliament was “obsolete.” In the Second Congress of the Communist International he told Bordiga, the leader of the Left in Italy:
You say that parliament is an instrument with the aid of which the bourgeoisie deceives the masses. But this argument should be turned against you, and it does turn against tour thesis...If you are Marxists, you must admit that, in capitalist society, there is a close link between the relations of classes and the relations of parties. How, I repeat, will you show all this if you are not members of parliament, and if you renounce parliamentary action. (Vol. 31, p. 255)
Lenin advocated the systematic strengthening of the struggle to extend democracy, including its parliamentary expression, with the aim of its revolutionary transformation from capitalist to socialist democracy. Following the bourgeois revolution in Russia in 1917, there was for four months a possibility that this revolutionary transformation could be carried through peacefully by the Soviets assuming state power. Such a peaceful revolution was prevented by the Social Revolutionary Party, which had a clear majority in the Soviets all through that period. After July the possibility ceased to exist because the Provisional Government prepared itself militarily to crush any attempt by the Soviets to assume state power. And, as Lenin pointed out: “In time of revolution it is not enough to ascertain ‘the will of the majority’ — you must prove to be stronger at the decisive moment and in the decisive place: you must win.” (Vol. 25, p. 201)
Well, the workers, soldiers and sailors, and peasants, led by Lenin and the Bolshevik Party, did win. The transfer of state power made possible by their victory created the necessity to build an entirely new and radically different state apparatus and system of government. As Marx and Engels and Lenin had shown over the years, just as the capitalist class establishes and develops its own state to serve the interests of capitalism and to suppress or otherwise defeat all efforts to replace the capitalist profit system by socialism, so, following victory over the capitalist class by whatever form of struggle the victory is achieved, a state which expresses the political supremacy of the working class must be established to provide security for the building of socialism and eliminate all remnants of capitalism. The revolutionary state must suppress any and all attempts to prevent of hinder this fundamental historical advance, either from outside of within the country. That is what Marx and Engels and Lenin described as “the dictatorship of the proletariat.” This, as Lenin explained to the delegates attending the Third World Congress of the Communist International, is essential as long as classes exist, as long as the capitalist class “overthrown in one country intensifies tenfold its attacks on socialism on an international scale.” (Vol. 32, p. 460)
Because of the radical change in world relationships that has been brought about as a result of the Great October Revolution, there is emerging a possibility that was foreseen by Lenin fifty-odd years ago. This is the possibility that, in some countries, under certain conditions, a parliamentary or otherwise peaceful transition to socialism will be possible.
We don’t have such a situation in Canada as yet, but we do have the makings of one. The problem of developing such a situation in Canada is not so much of numbers, and certainly is not of a will to fight, it is essentially the problem of ideological change. It includes the problem of advancing the conscious aims of the working class including the trade union movement, to demands which strike at the foundation of monopoly capital and hence lead to a demand for the revolutionary transformation of society. And, you know, because of Lenin’s accomplishments perhaps I should more correctly say, the accomplishments of the Russian people under Lenin’s leadership, we have such demands in Canada today. Furthermore, some of them are supported by wide sections of the population. For example consider the demand that the United States get out of Vietnam. If American imperialism is defeated in Vietnam, it could open the floodgates of democratic action on a scale that could be compared with the scale on which they were opened by the Great October Revolution. On no account should we assume that all possibilities for such a great number of changes are past.
Yes, a number of progressive people tend to say, oh, it’s a fine idea, but try to do it. Well, Lenin helped us on that also. I don’t need to take much time on this one because I am sure everybody here has read it. But that is what Lenin’s little book, “Left”-wing Communism, is all about. When this book was first published, its effect on the working-class movement was revolutionary. In a moment of tremendous exhilaration evoked by the Great October Revolution, it brought before the Canadian working class a completely new conception of how revolutionaries should work to integrate Marxism in the working-class movement and with the thinking of the great mass of democratic people.