Anarchism III: Anarchy comes from the Greek words meaning “contrary to authority”


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Did Lenin abandon vanguardism?As discussed in section H.5.1 , vanguardism rests on the premise that the working class cannot emancipate itself. As such, the ideas of Lenin as expounded in What is to be Done? contradicts the key idea of Marx that the emancipation of the working class is the task of the working class itself. Thus the paradox of Leninism. On the one hand, it subscribes to an ideology allegedly based on working class self-liberation. On the other, the founder of that school wrote an obviously influential work whose premise not only logically implies that they cannot, it also provides the perfect rationale for party dictatorship over the working class (and as the history of Leninism in power showed, this underlying premise was much stronger than any democratic-sounding rhetoric — see “What happened during the Russian Revolution?”). It is for this reason that many Leninists are somewhat embarrassed by Lenin’s argument in What is to be Done?. Hence we see Chris Harman writing that “the real theoretical basis for his [Lenin’s] argument on the party is not that the working class is incapable on its own of coming to theoretical socialist consciousness . . . The real basis for his argument is that the level of consciousness in the working class is never uniform.” [Party and Class, pp. 25-6] In other words, Harman changes the focus of the question away from the point explicitly and repeatedly stated by Lenin that the working class was incapable on its own of coming to theoretical socialist consciousness and that he was simply repeating Marxist orthodoxy when he did.

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