On April 22, 1870 the great Russian revolutionary Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was born in a small city of Simbirsk near the Volga River. Lenin stood at the forefront of Russia’s revolutionary movement, at the helm of the world’s first socialist country, and simultaneously brought into being the modern international communist movement. Lenin’s thinking and the movement he helped create shook the world, and with our collective efforts, will shape the future.
Lenin’s practical and theoretical contributions are legion. He was a profoundly practical person, who made major contributions to Marxist theory. In fact, Lenin took the lead in applying and developing scientific socialism at time when the world was changing, when competitive capitalism of the 1800s was being replaced by monopoly capitalism of the 20th century. In doing so he brought the science of revolution into the present time. It is correctly said that Leninism is Marxism in the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution.
In his brilliant work, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, Lenin makes a penetrating analysis of monopoly capitalism, a parasitic system of exploitation and oppression that had extended its tentacles to every area of globe. Recognizing that a relative handful of advanced capitalist countries dominated the peoples of Asia, Africa, Latin America and Middle East, Lenin understood the great importance of the struggles for national liberation and held the movements of oppressed nations to be indispensable in the fight to eliminate monopoly capitalism.
Lenin’s struggle to develop Marxism in the era of imperialism meant doing battle with the advocates of reformism, revisionism and opportunism. Some people accused him of being argumentative, of splitting hairs, and disrupting left unity. They were proved wrong.
Look at any of Lenin’s major works and instead what you will find are hard-hitting discussions of fundamental questions answered in a revolutionary way. Can capitalism be reformed? The answer is no. It must be replaced with socialism. Our main weapon in the battle for socialism is a party of a new type, a communist party. The political rule of the wealthy and the dictatorship of the bourgeois that is part and parcel of every capitalist society needs to be answered with a revolution that aims for the dictatorship of the proletariat – where the working class is in charge.
One of the really great things about Lenin and Marxism-Leninism is constant of proletarian internationalism. Having looked at imperialism or monopoly capitalism (the terms are interchangeable), Lenin recognized that the slogan “Workers of the world unite” needed to be updated and replaced by “Workers and oppressed peoples of the world unite.”
Working class internationalism is not charity based on goodwill. Instead it is the recognition of a shared common enemy, the monopoly capitalists, and rooted in the understanding that the arrival of a classless society, communism, is impossible as long as class societies still exist.
Lenin’s commitment to internationalism is clear when he says the Emir of Afghanistan is better than Western liberals and a lot of so-called socialists. Check out this quote by Lenin: “The struggle that the Emir of Afghanistan is waging for the independence of Afghanistan is objectively a revolutionary struggle, despite the monarchist views of the Emir and his associates, for it weakens, disintegrates and undermines imperialism; whereas the struggle waged by such ‘desperate’ democrats and ‘Socialists,’ ‘revolutionaries’ and republicans as, for example, Kerensky and Tsereteli, Renaudel and Scheidemann, Chernov and Dan, Henderson and Clynes, during the imperialist war was a reactionary struggle, for its results was the embellishment, the strengthening, the victory, of imperialism.”
When you think about the leftists who echo the U.S. State Department on Iran, or who refuse to support the liberation of Palestine, Lenin’s views are breath of fresh air. In fact, they are the only views that are worthwhile for a revolutionary to take up.
To be a Marxist-Leninist today means to be a revolutionary. We need to build the day-to-day struggle and win everything we can win. We need to raise the general level of consciousness and organization, or, to put this another way, we are working to build the unions and other people’s organizations while helping folks develop an understanding that the capitalism system must go. Finally, we are working shoulder-to-shoulder with the advanced, the activists and leaders in the peoples struggle to help them take up the science of Marxism-Leninism and to build a new communist party. The goal in all of this is to seize power from the rich and powerful, and to establish socialism – a system where political and economic power is in the hands of the working class.
We live in a sick society. The ruling class has not only failed to cope with the current pandemic, its pollical representatives such as Trump and Pence are making things worse. One thing about capitalism is that is an excellent teacher. It never fails to disappoint and will teach people time and time again what a rotten and corrupt system it is.
For those of us who are serious about putting an end to monopoly capitalism, Marxism-Leninism provides us with the tools we need – at its core it is all about the theory and practice of revolution.
Mao Zedong, the principal architect of the Chinese Revolution put is like this, “If there is to be revolution, there must be a revolutionary party. Without a revolutionary party, without a party built on the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary theory and in the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary style, it is impossible to lead the working class and the broad masses of the people in defeating imperialism and its running dogs.”
The Unity Document of Freedom Road Socialist Organization states, “The primary theoreticians of Marxism-Leninism are Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao. We also value the contributions of other socialists such as Amilcar Cabral, Fidel Castro, and Ho Chi Minh who applied Marxism to their own conditions. We seek to learn from Marxist-Leninists in the United States, such as William Z. Foster and Harry Haywood. Communists can also learn from revolutionary nationalists such as Malcolm X. Theory derives from social practice. We seek to grow from every new lesson our activism in all social movements teaches us.”
Marxism-Leninism is constantly being enriched and developed, by its application, from the Philippines to Palestine, to the United States. It is the product of the collective struggle of working and oppressed people. 150 years after the birth of Lenin it can be said the Marxism-Leninism is forever young, and it will live forever in the hearts and minds of revolutionaries.