Letters: ‘Timeless Leninism?’ & ‘More on Syriza’
I think a careful reading of my document and of my biography of Tony Cliff would respond adequately to all your points (‘Where Leadership Leads’, February Socialist Standard). Indeed your author seems to have been rather careless in checking his facts – What is to be Done? was published in 1902 not 1903; much more seriously, your author simply disregards the arguments developed not only by Cliff, but by Hal Draper, Pierre Broué, Lars T Lih and many others about the place of What Is to be Done? in Lenin’s work, and whether it can be considered as a timeless statement of ‘Leninism’. Likewise the IS did not adopt the slate system until 1975, which rather undermines the claim that it is a central tenet of Leninism. As for ‘what we’ve been saying for over 100 years’, that may well be true, but with what results? It is easy enough to point to the limited achievements of the Leninist left, but since your own achievements are equally thin on the ground, a more modest tone might be called for.
We are aware that there is a school of historical revisionists who try to argue that Lenin was merely a leftwing Social Democrat. This may well be how he appeared when he participated in discussions within the Second International, but inside Russia he never gave up the idea that the revolution there would have to be led by a vanguard party of full-time revolutionaries organised on the lines he had outlined in his 1902 pamphlet and which had shocked other revolutionaries at the time such as Rosa Luxemburg and even Trotsky.
That he still held this view to the end can be seen from his other notorious pamphlet, Leftwing Communism: An Infantile Disorder, that came out in 1920. In chapter II, headed ‘One of the Basic Prerequisites for the Success of the Bolsheviks’, he wrote repeatedly about ‘absolute centralisation’ and ‘iron discipline’ and attributed the Bolsheviks’ success to this. He still clearly thought in terms of a centralised and disciplined vanguard party ‘leading and attracting the backward masses.’ The chapter can be read on the internet here: www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1920/lwc/ch02.htm
There is also the fact that, historically, all parties and groups descended from the Bolshevik Party under Lenin, Trotskyist as well as Stalinist, have been organised as vanguard parties along the lines of his 1902 pamphlet. Frankly, we cannot understand how anyone can seriously argue that Lenin did not advocate a centralised and highly disciplined party of full-time revolutionaries.–Editors.
More on Syriza
I agree with the article written on page 10 of February Socialist Standard about Syriza. But Syriza is not simply a coalition of various left and green, etc. There are also various splits from the socialist party (like the Labour in England) and more important inside Syriza the most solid ideologically group are the one of the ex-eurocommunist party of Greece that gave also to Syriza the ideological guidelines in a eurocommunist way like the 70s. The thinktank of Syriza is called ‘Nikos Poulantzas’ (http://marxisttheory.org/poulantzas-eurocommunism). If somebody is sect-maniac I can send you a list of the groups that consist Syriza!
Anyway I think the next thing to be analyzed is why Syriza collaborated with a populist party to rule the country, but this is strictly a Greek peculiarity…
THEODORE DESPONIS, Greece