Lenin wasn’t Marxist, Stalin wasn’t Leninist

When Marx wrote The Communist Manifesto, he wanted a global stateless and classless society without money where every person had freedom of speech; and the right to bear arms and the right of revolution were respected. However, the USSR under Lenin and Stalin turned into a dictatorship with a new dominant class: the nomenklatura. But not only in the practice Lenin betrayed Marx.

Lenin wasn’t Marxist

The Leninist theory could be summarised like this: a vanguard party, made up of the most qualified part of the proletariat should be created to lead the revolution to avoid reformism, and, instead pursuing real revolutionary causes. So why is this not Marxist? When Marx wrote about the liberal revolutions, he said that they didn’t worked for two reasons: the State was not overthrown and there still was private property in the means of production, so those who led the revolution (the bourgeoisie) became the new ruler class. In the leninist model, property in the means of production don’t disappear, but the State exercises it. Besides, there is no single criterion to determine who is more able to lead the revolution, and even if there was, without radical democracy there is no way to stop the vanguard to turn tyrannical and exploitative:

  • The vanguard members don’t produce but get paid (they take a part of the surplus value)
  • The vanguard doesn’t allow the workers to actually control the temporary State and its economic policy
  • It controls the means of production
  • It can re-alienate the proletariat by the education and propaganda
  • It can transform into a new de facto dominant class (e.g. the nomenklatura in the USSR)
capitalism state despotism socalism
Source: Which Would You Choose? Capitalism, State Despotism, or Real Socialism?

Stalin wasn’t Leninist

In his final days, Lenin realised that Stalin acts were not made to secure socialism, but to satisfy his own interests and reactionary beliefs. This is a letter he made for the 12th Congress of the Russian Communist Party:

Comrade Stalin, having become Secretary-General, has unlimited authority concentrated in his hands, and I am not sure whether he will always be capable of using that authority with sufficient caution. Comrade Trotsky, on the other hand, as his struggle against the C.C. on the question of the People’s Commissariat of Communications has already proved, is distinguished not only by outstanding ability. He is personally perhaps the most capable man in the present C.C., but he has displayed excessive self-assurance and shown excessive preoccupation with the purely administrative side of the work. […]

Stalin is too rude and this defect, although quite tolerable in our midst and in dealing among us Communists, becomes intolerable in a Secretary-General. That is why I suggest that the comrades think about a way of removing Stalin from that post and appointing another man in his stead who in all other respects differs from Comrade Stalin in having only one advantage, namely, that of being more tolerant, more loyal, more polite and more considerate to the comrades, less capricious, etc. This circumstance may appear to be a negligible detail. But I think that from the standpoint of safeguards against a split and from the standpoint of what I wrote above about the relationship between Stalin and Trotsky it is not a [minor] detail, but it is a detail which can assume decisive importance.

— Lenin. Letter to the Congress. 1923

Stalin wasn’t a socialist, but a state capitalist. That means there were wage labour and property in the means of production, only the State was the only entity which could exercise it for the interests of the elites. If this system was maintained was due to physical removal of all disidents (the Great Purge) and intense propaganda, allowing “free” speech «in conformity with the interests of the working people, and in order to strengthen the socialist system» (art. 125 of the 1936 Soviet Constitution). That means the government was the only one who, benevolently, decided what was appropiate for the worker class, just the opposite of what Marx wanted.

[Censorship] exercises tutelage over the highest interest of the citizens, their minds… You marvel at the delightful diversity, the inexhaustible riches of nature. You do not ask the rose to smell like a violet; but the richest of all, the mind, is supposed to exist in only a single manner?

— Karl Marx

To fight freedom of the press, one must maintain the thesis of the permanent immaturity of the human race… If the immaturity of the human race is the mystical ground for opposing freedom of the press, then certainly censorship is a most reasonable means of hindering the human race from coming of age.

— Karl Marx

The essence of the censorship in general is based on the arrogant imaginary idea that the state has of its officials.

— Karl Marx

That hatred to the free thinking (on whick Marxism is based) got to such ridiculous levels that Stalin even rejected genetics as bourgeois and imposed  Lysenkoism (a new version of Lamarckism).

Some similar happened in the electoral system: even thought all people older than 18 including women (very advanced for that time) could vote, in the practice the politburo, which wasn’t elected democratically, made all decisions, so the Supreme Soviet had no real power.

Marx and Lenin thought that the State is always a tool of the dominant class, so it must be overthrown. Stalin kept the State and based it on nationalism. Socialism in one country is a vicious cycle: the State must remain because there are external threats and the revolution must not be extended because of self-determination, which is a short way to say that imaginary lines drawn by history must be respected for some reason even though the interests of all the proletariat are the same: end the class struggle.

The society which organizes production anew on the basis of free and equal association of the producers will put the whole state machinery where it will then belong —into the museum of antiquities, next to the spinning wheel and the bronze ax.

— Engels. The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. 1884

And finally, let’s talk about antisemitism. As Lenin said, it is an “attempt to divert the hatred of the workers and peasants from the exploiters toward the Jews”. Stalin, on the other side, wrote a letter in 1907 differentiating between a “Jewish faction” and a “true Russian faction” in Bolshevism. He used the term “rootless cosmopolitan” referring to Jew. In 1952 and 1953, the Doctors’ plot happened: a group of Moscow doctors (most of them Jews) were accused of conspiring to assesinate Soviet leaders, so they were detained and tortured.


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