Was Lenin a Marxist?

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Looking at history it is hard to find a man whose ideas and personality had a more significant impact on eastern Europe than Lenin. For, without his charisma and intellect, which allowed him to take hold of the chaotic state in which Russia found itself at the beginning of the 20th century and to push it into what he viewed as a communist state, it is now hard to fathom what could have replaced the Soviet system which after the Second World War grasped the eastern bloc. While one cannot deny that there were many other relevant actors in Russia’s transition, at the same time one needs to acknowledge that the ideas which set the ground for the revolutionary state, were based on Lenin’s interpretation of Marx’s thoughts. This can easily lead one to believe that Lenin’s ideas were Marx’s ideas and, via the principle of transitivity, those that have come out of the eastern bloc can then be led to ultimately consider that they owe the suffering endured during the latter half of the 20th century to Marx. But, just because this conclusion is easy to draw doesn’t make it true.

Long before the revolution, Lenin decided to transform himself into the evangelist of Marxism. is aim was to promote himself as the sole source of an orthodox understanding of Marx. From his perspective, he was to become the second coming of Marx, the one who would manage to transform Marx’s ideal into reality. Throughout his writings Lenin often attributes either his own ideas or Engels’ ideas (as they were more closely related to his own) to Marx. Thus, he creates a new frame, a new reality, a new anchor for Marxism, an anchor that is pivoted in anything else but not in Marx’s ideas.

Though, there are times where one could consider that Marx was leaning more in the direction of Lenin, those passages that can be said to do this appear in books or articles that Marx wrote together with Engels. Following an analysis of the philosophical differences between Marx and Engels I support the hypothesis that the passages in question are more likely Engels’ part of the work than they are Marx’s. Other parts that were used by the Soviets have unspecified preconditions under which they can be true, preconditions that require an understanding some earlier writings of Marx to which they didn’t have access.  Without having these preconditions in the background of the mind while reading some paragraphs it becomes very easy to use them in a sophist manner that would allow for a complete denature of their meaning.

Even so, what Lenin did was a feat of genius, for he managed to take populist and autarchic ideas which are incompatible with the work of Marx and seemingly appease them with Marx’s thoughts. In this essay, I aim to show what the main differences are between Marx and Lenin. Engels will also be looked at in passing in order to provide support for the statement that I made regarding the philosophical dissonance between Marx and Engels. Hegel will also be an important anchor in this work.

I will not aim at any point to defend Marx for that is not the scope of this work. The only scope I have is to answer the following question: Was Lenin a Marxist[1]?

We will start the inquiry by looking at the metaphysical grounds of Marxism. While Marx has never written a text on metaphysics we will use deduction in order to arrive at his metaphysical position. In order to help us in the process, Hegel will be used as reference, for as Plekhanov and others later tried to argue Marx’s dialectic materialism is nothing more than an inversion of Hegelian idealism (statement which I believe to be wrong). For those that are not interested in what is sure to be a philosophical segment I recommend skipping this part. However, I do consider this segment to be essential in understanding the foundation of Marx’s beliefs. At the same time, one can read everything except this and if certain unclarities pop up a later, a reading of this part with those questions in mind might help clarify uncertainties.

Given that both Marx and Lenin were trying to present a vision of how a healthy prosperous world should look like and how one can arrive at it, we next need to explore whether or not there actually is any choice in the matter. Can we as individuals do anything in order to speed up the arrival of such a utopic world or to deter it, if not ensure the fail of its arrival? Do we have the capacity to leave behind us the current world order? Can we choose of our own will to create a new world? In other words, we need to understand where the two stand on the question of freedom and free will. We will be exploring this from both a historic and an anthropologic perspective.

Their view of freedom and free will, is going to lead each of them towards the development of two different revolutionary models. We are going to explore how Marx with his model which is based in the dialectic development of history would not have endorsed the Russian revolution in the fashion and conditions in which it took place, while Lenin who build the revolutionary model on voluntarism saw revolution as an imperative. We will also see that voluntarism in Lenin’s view is something of which only a few, the ruling elite are truly capable.

Finally, we will look at the different views that Marx and Lenin had on the state. We will start again from Hegel as Marx developed what can be deduced as his view on this subject while criticizing him. We will also see another striking difference between the Marx and Lenin, namely that the former was against the institution of the political state while the latter was an avid supporter of it.

In the end, I hope that you shall be convinced that there is an astonishing divergence to be found between these two historic figures and hence conclude, as did I, that the Russian revolution was not a Marxist revolution and that all so called communist countries were anything but communists in the Marxian meaning of that word. And, that the mutated version of communism that spread from Russia was actually nothing more than an autarchy veiled under populist ideology.

[1] By Marxist I do not mean what has today come to be known as Marxist philosophy, social theory, political theory or economic theory. All I mean is Marx’s thoughts.

Touching upon Marx’s metaphysical foundations

To understand Marx’s position, one needs to start at its foundation, at the presuppositions that underline his theory. As Marxism is quite often placed in debate with liberalism I will use liberalism here as a helpful anchor in contrast to which I will introduce the beliefs that ground Marx’s model. I do not aim by any means to offer a comprehensive presentation of the distinctions between these two schools of thought nor do I intend to go into how and where they synthesize[1]. I will only concentrate on one specific point and that is on the stories of creation that were accepted by Lock and by Hegel (as Marx’s metaphysics is based on a critical analysis of Hegel we are introducing Hegel first and then proceeding to Marx).

The liberal view is rooted in the classic Christian story which states that humans were made by god (this is not to state that they consider the biblical writing to be objective truth). Given this, Lock had to choose sides in a theological dilemma that started in the 15th century and continued in the 16th century, namely: “Can god change the laws of nature or are the laws of nature fixed?”. The problems that arise here are quite staggering. On the one hand, if god does not have the ability to change natural law then he cannot maintain his omnipotence. On the other hand, if he can change natural law then those forces cannot be called laws anymore for they may become null and void at some point. Lock decided to acknowledge god’s omnipotence, which led to the creation of the Workmanship ideal. According to the Workmanship ideal, god has maker’s knowledge of his creation, which means: he owns his creation and has the capacity to do whatever he wants with it. Thus, the workmanship ideal grounds the liberal world view, for if god created humans and human belong to god no other human has a right to harm, destroy or possess god’s property. Thus, all humans all god’s property and there is no hierarchy between humans, from where the well-known liberal manta that all humans are created equal. “God, as king David says, Psal exv. 16, has given the earth to the children of men, given it to mankind in common.”[2] Thus, each individual is sovereign because true and saving religion consists of inward persuasion of the mind and it is your belief that is necessary to make it be the right answer. Freedom and free will are guaranteed and they cannot be taken without going against godly order. The only way that someone can legitimately rule in accordance to liberal guidelines is if conscious individuals transfer their power to a representative. In exchange for this transfer the reprezentative will have to guarantee protection of life, property and freedom under the rule of law. And property of something can only be achieved through creation, meaning that only if one labored on something can he state that that belongs to them.

Hegel’s model is different, because in his model there is a different story which explains the emergence of existence. In his Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel proposes that existence emerges out of Geist. Geist is an unconscious universality, meaning that it comprises all of existence but is not aware of what that existence is. At this point Geist is nothing, because for Hegel Geist becomes what it knows. The only way for the Geist to know itself is by dividing itself through a dialectic process which allows knowledge to arise. In this process, Geist becomes alienated from itself and its ultimate goal is eliminating the alienation and becoming a conscious universality. This can only be achieved by overcoming all contradictions, all polarities, all dualistic splits that are at first necessary for knowledge to become manifest through the thesis, antithesis and synthesis[3] process that is inherent to dialectics and ultimately to recreate self-subsistent consciousness. We will see that Marx utilizes Hegelian dialectic on materialism which allows him to move from capitalism, the thesis, to socialism, the antithesis, to communism the synthesis.

While in the liberal view individual freedom is absolute and it is granted through the workmanship ideal, in the Hegelian view the realization of Absolute Geist is the ideal and it can only be achieved by relinquishing individual freedom to the group. In this view the individual is free through the group. Thus, institutions such as NGO, Companies, Administrative Institutions, syndicates and other forms of organized groups are those that have free will and the singular individuals only follow. From the Hegelian perspective this make sense because: “Our self-consciousness is really Geist’s self-consciousness. Geist is conscious of himself through our self-consciousness. If Geist’s is the all-inclusive being, then my consciousness is a finite moment of Geist’s consciousness. And, my self-consciousness is a finite moment of Geist’s self-consciousness. So, Geist’s knowledge of himself is a knowledge of himself in and through our self-consciousness”[4]. Based on this argument, a gathering of conscious individuals is closer to the embodied realization of Geist than a single individual. Here property belongs to the group and not to the individual, the individual can maintain voting rights inside of his group as a means through which to decide the position of the group and to enhance the consciousness of the group, but then the group is the one which should cast the final vote. In this sense, we could imagine that Hegel would have preferred a state governed by representatives of the various institutions that make up the state (some examples of such institutions were enumerated above).

Hegel’s absolute spirit, even though it was presented as a process and did not presuppose the existence of any atemporal substance which was the creator of the world, was still not satisfactory to many enlightenment thinkers, who had as part of their scope the grounding of political economics and of morality in science instead of theology. Thus, various philosophers such as Feuerbach[5] transposed Hegel’s dialectics into a materialistic instead of an idealistic conception of reality. In ‘The Essence of Christianity’, Feuerbach used Hegel’s idea that Geist’s knowledge is objectified in the emerging world through the process of historical unfolding of the universe, to allows him to interpret that Geist’s knowledge and self-consciousness are equivalent to the sum total of knowledge and self-consciousnes of all individuals. Thus, men’s god consciousness and men’s consciousness are the self-consciousness of men. In Feuerbach’s view, the essence of religion is in the relationship of man to man, and that through this we project god. “Religion at least the Christian is the relation of men to himself, to his own nature. The divine thing is nothing else than the human being, the human being freed from the limits of the individual and made objective, contemplated and revered in the form of a distinct being. All the attributes of divine nature are therefore attributes of human nature.”[6]

For Feuerbach, the Absolute Spirit is not the basis of reality, but the medium of human alienation, for it is the abstracted essence of Man which is estranged from the subject and granted an external appearance as an infinite being. Thus, what is most essential to Man is transformed into an external object that confronts man as an inhuman absolute, as God. Feuerbach considers that this religious behavior is driven by the realization of the finitude of man, for once man is confronted with his limit he will project that which is dearest to him, he’s own infinite, qualities onto Heaven. He will objectify these and transform them into the focal point of religious reverence. Thus, although as mentioned in the above quote one can objectively state that god’s consciousness is man’s consciousness we cannot conclude  that one is also aware of their identity with God. “Man first of all sees his nature as if out of himself, before he finds it in himself. His own nature is in the first instance contemplated by him as that of another being.”[7]

While Feuerbach disregards Hegel’s idea of Absolute Spirit, he is not against his conception of the dialectic nature of history. However, instead of seeing history as a means through which the Absolute Mind transcends the divides that it has created in order to obtain knowledge and returns to itself as a unalienated and conscious universal, he sees it as the process through which human being reintegrate their essence into themselves by reclaiming it from their self-made idols. “[History] is the process by which humankind unmasks and abolishes the many religious and ideological forms which appear to men initially as external necessities, but which are revealed to be manifestations of human mental activity. History, as such, is not the daydream of Absolute Mind but the protracted struggle of real human beings to abolish illusory gods.”[8]

With this, Feuerbach has identified that Hegel inversed subject and predicate in his metaphysics. This discovery and the transformation on which Feuerbach has worked, represented a significant stepping stone in helping Marx release Hegelian philosophy from its dependence on the ideal. However, it is important to note that Marx’s critique of Hegel goes beyond a simple inversion of the Hegelian predicate with the Hegelian subject. For what Marx truly wanted to accomplish in his critique of Hegel was a demystification of Hegelian philosophy. “The mystification which dialectic suffers in Hegel’s hands by no means prevents him from being the first to present its general form of working in a comprehensive and conscious manner. With him it is standing on its head. It must be turned right side up again, if you would discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell”[9] Thus, Marx agrees with Feuerbach and dismisses the placement of Geist as the foundation of reality as being nothing more than a subject predicate inversion. “These are its sin qua non; and yet the condition is posited as the conditioned, the determinator as the determined, the producer as the product.”[10] In Marx’s view one cannot abnegate, as Hegel did, that material reality is the starting point. It is thus, material reality that generates Absolute Mind and not the other way around. Thus, as Feuerbach, Marx also considers that what men needs to do is to reconcile with their ‘species-essence’ which they have extracted and relinquished onto heaven.

[1] You will see, as we move on, that it can be said that Marx has synthesized the Workmanship ideal with process philosophy, thus, transcending both the limitations of a substantive creator, aka God, and allowing for a frame that also considers equality as essential because it has eliminated the source of all hierarchies, namely a divine substantive creator

[2] J. Locke, Second Treatise of Civil Government John Locke (1690), Chap. V, Sec. 25

[3] Thesis stands for a proposition or theory that is widely believed in. Antithesis is a negation or refutation of this theory. Synthesis is a new theory that reconciles these two opposing viewpoints. Innovation example: “Thesis: People need to go the bank to draw cash. Antithesis: It’s not necessary to go to the bank to draw money. Synthesis: Develop ATMs that can dispense cash at convenient locations.” Life cycle example: “Take a grain seed, which is the Thesis. Out of the grain seed grows the plant, which is the Antithesis, and which ‘negates’ the grain seed. Then, out of the plant grows new grain seeds, which is the Synthesis, which then again forms the new Thesis and the process starts again.”

[4] Arthur Holmes, A History of Philosophy at Wheaton College, 59 Hegel on Absolute Spirit

[5] Feuerbach was in his youth a Hegelian and later on turned into a materialist. It is generally accepted that Feuerbach applied a transformational critique to Hegel’s philosophy, which moved it from idealism to materialism.

[6] Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity, p. 239

[7] Ibid. p. 13

[8] Mark Edward Knackstedt, State And Revolution: Hegel, Marx, And Lenin, p. 78

[9] Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume I, p. 29

[10] Karl Marx, Critique of Hegel’s ‘Philosophy of Right’, p. 63

On Freedom and Free will

          For Marx, history is the process through which mankind achieves progressive liberation. Hence, freedom and free will can be said to be one of the core themes of Marx’s thought. The first time he addresses the question of freedom is in his doctoral thesis entitled “On the Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature”, completed in 1841, where he supports Epicurus’s position for it transcends the contradictory aspects of atomistic philosophy by conceiving atoms as being in possession of freedom and self-consciousness. Physical determinism is completely rejected and the independence of man from any absolute divine or earthly being is argued for: “The maxim of Prometheus, ‘In a word, I have each and every god’, is its [philosophy’s] own maxim, its own motto against all heavenly and earthly gods which do not recognize human self-consciousness as the highest deity. There should be none other beside it.”[1]

After his PhD, during his early years at the Rheinische Zeitung (1842-1843) Marx took a strong liberal stand of which both Locke and Mill would have approved. He proclaimed in his articles that the essence of man is only realized when freedom becomes reality, because man is a spiritual being and is essentially free[2]. At this stage Marx seems to have an idealistic rather than a materialistic or naturalistic foundation for his thought. He completely rejects this foundation later on, when – after having been influenced by Feuerbach’s Essence of Christianity – he starts his own inquiry into a critique of Hegel. Within the critique, Marx rejected Hegelian ontological idealism and monism, but maintained the Hegelian process view of reality. In addition, he develops a thesis which he never surrendered: “the foundation of all human thought, history and institutions is the daily concrete existence of empirical human beings”[3]. The individual, not some larger whole, is for Marx the real subject. In this view the individual has ontological autonomy.

This move away from idealism does not eliminate the liberal within Marx. In later years, he still inclines towards the Workmanship ideal as support for his labor theory of value and as a way to argue against the exploitation of the working class, especially in Capital Vol. 1. However, Marx does see one major flaw in Liberalism, a flaw that nowadays is seen by many political economists, namely that the liberal view mistook the negative tendency of man, his egoism, for his true essence. Marx, insists that this is not the true essence of man and that man’s real essence is to be found in the social character of mankind. It might be underlined here that when Marx defines man as a social being, this does not imply that the individual is ontologically subordinate to society. The process by which man becomes a species-being is founded upon his concrete individuality: “Only when the real, individual man has taken back into himself the abstract citizen and as an individual, in his empirical life, his individual work and his individual relationships, has become a species-being, … , only then is human emancipation achieved”[4]

In German Ideology, Marx roots humanity’s freedom in its activity, in its praxis. Through his activity, the individual can transform both physical nature and society. Here emerges what I would call the true monistic allegiance that Marx holds, naturalism. I call him a naturalist because he sees man as part of nature. For him, there is no transcendent or other worldly essence within man. Thus, human activity is freeing because it metabolizes nature transforming it in such a fashion that it may suite the individual and society’s will.[5]

Praxis that is true to the essence of man is unalienated praxis. He protests against the capitalist society that is rooted in classical economic theory on the ground that it generates alienation across four aspects:

1.      The Worker is alienated from the product because his wealth seems to be indirectly corelated to the amounts of goods he produces

2.      The aim, the reason or the meaning of the worker’s production is alienated from him. He is left only with the physical robotic activity and with the indirect aim of securing his subsistence, thus he is alienated from his work

3.      The worker becomes a means for the capitalist and inverse (this goes against Kantian ethics), thus, generating alienation from fellow human beings

4.      Movement from a world in which other humans were ends in themselves to a world in which they are means. This allows egoism and individualism to reign and generate alienation from species-life

Marx believes that communism will allow humanity to negate the alienation that was produced by the classical economic system and in the process free humanity from its enslavement. The main idea is to move to a platform defined by Kantian morality, to move away from the current world, where each individual sees the rest of humanity as a means towards his ends, to a world in which each individual sees all others as ends in themselves. By taking a critical perspective, we have to admit that what Marx seems to be proposing is actually a system rooted in Kant’s vision of “Eternal Peace”, but that transcends and includes it by recognizing that humans requires more than just the fulfilment of physical necessities and the assurance of security in order to prosper. What he hopes to realize through the abolition of alienation on the basis of the division of labor is to eliminate praxis as a means and in the process to free man so that he may develop his capacities unconstrained by the capitalist system. In Marx’s communism man becomes a multi-faceted creature who can “do one thing today and another tomorrow, hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner […] without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic”[6] and who performs all of these different activities for their own sake. Humankind, thus becomes what it was always meant to be, it becomes a creator.

Now the question that begs is: why, given all of the above, is Marx still seen by many commentators as a determinist? I would have to say that it is his dialectical approach towards history which leaves behind the flavor of determinism. What first needs to be noted is that Marx sees history as advancing. In the process of this advance freedom develops and permeates more facets of human life. If left unexamined and out of the context of his complete work we can easily be tempted to consider that history is an abstract subject which moves itself, making everything that can be said to be part of history mere predicates and, thus, helplessly bound to the course of history (i.e. humans). In truth, what Marx proclaims is that the domination of circumstances differed from epoch to epoch and that this fact can be seen from the perspective of historical materialism. In addition, he considers there to be an advance, a development, and as a result an end goal to history because freedom has widened throughout the millennia. Hence, if history is left to proceed as it has till now it is not absurd to state that the domination of circumstances is transitory and will completely disappear in what he sees as the end of history, communism. Communism has “the task of replacing the domination of circumstances and of chance over individuals by the domination of individuals over chance and circumstances”[7]

The Marxian view is that freedom is power and that for communism to have been realized and for the essence of humanity to have been fully reappropriated, humankind will have to achieve domination over both nature and social existence. In this sense, the continuous development of productive forces through technology should be able to free all of humanity from their basic wants and eliminate the need for exploitation. The communist revolution, which will be a consciously driven revolution, a revolution in which each individual is aware of his state and of the laws of history, will allow humanity to free itself from the domination of both nature and society. We have to conclude that for Marx the world is not an immovable reality, it is not the subject for which we are just predicates, but a raw material which humanity can process through each individual’s self-oriented activity. Thus, the famous Marxist idea that freedom is essentially bound with insight into necessity is anything but Marxists, conditioned that we use Marxism as a term that denotes Marx’s thoughts. However, if we use it to denote Marx and Engel’s thoughts then I would say it is half right because the later of the two is the one who developed this idea.

While both Marx and Engels openly considered that freedom consists of the individual’s mastery over his social and natural surroundings, with the latter affirming this in German ideology, Anti-Duhring and Dialectics of Nature, there is a difference in approach and emphasis that creates a significant gap between their views. Engels position finds its clearest expression in the first part of Anti-Duhring, in the chapter of Freedom and Necessity. This chapter will become a corner stone for Lenin’s understanding of freedom. Here, Engels is heading down the Hegelian path and is equivalating freedom with knowledge. Plekhanov, one of the Russian ‘Marxists’ that has heavily influenced Lenin, interprets this equivalence as a statement that awareness of necessity removes the characterization of necessity as fate and bestowing upon cognitive recognition the ability to transform necessity into freedom.

From Engels’s perspective, the greater the role left to free choice the lesser the freedom, for freedom is the acknowledgement of necessity and the greater that acknowledgement is the greater the freedom. Judgment should be driven by understanding the laws of society, it should be arrived at through the use of rationality, because ‘necessity’ is the approximate equivalent of ‘necessary laws’ or ‘occurrence in conformity with law’. Hence, choice must be guided by reason.

Engels seeks to define the manner in which freedom is accomplished with particular reference to the laws of nature and society. “Freedom does not consist in the imagined independence from the laws of nature, but in the knowledge of these laws and in the possibility this gives of making them work according to a plan towards definite ends”[8]. Here we can see a second divergence from Marx who did not hold that freedom was achieved through conscious application of the laws of society. Engels conceives of both mental and physical laws but sees that former deriving from the latter. He also considers that by understanding these mental laws we can gain control over ourselves. At this point we cannot prescribe a strict fatalist position to Engels’ thoughts because what he means is that mental laws seem to be laws that determine how mental activities precede. In other words, they allow us to know which mental activity comes first: a before b, b before c, etc.

Looking at a third difference, Marx analyzed the influence of history upon the individual while Engels analyzed how an individual’s actions fit into a historical process which is determined by necessary laws. Engels considers that humans cannot calculate the full impact of their actions nor can they always ensure that what they are doing will end up as planned, hence humans do not consciously intend most of what happens, one therefore must conclude that there are historical laws which explain that which humans did not consciously intend. The total scheme in his analysis of history would include four elements: (a) the driving forces, (b) the motives of human actions conditioned by these forces, (c) the actions themselves, and (d) the resultant historical event. The statement that history is governed by laws can be taken to mean that there is a regular co-ordination between a and d, and that a is somehow the ultimate cause of d. However, Engels still seems to be allowing some room for free will, given that he also considered the existence of other elements except driving forces. In this case point b) plays a very important role.

However, in a different writing Engels ensures the impossibility of the existence of free will, by ensuring psychological determinism. In “Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy” he presents will as functioning in the following way: “The will is determined by passion or deliberation. But the levers which immediately determine passion or deliberation are of very different kinds. Partly they may be external objects, partly ideal motives, ambition, ‘enthusiasm for truth and justice’, personal hatred or even purely individual whims of all kinds”[9]. Later in the book he goes on to say, “we simply cannot get away from the fact that everything which sets men acting must find its way through their brains …”[10]. Here Engels is a neurological reductionist for whom all mental activity is the result of cerebral activity, placing this within the wider field of his materialist foundation we need to conclude that there is no free will and that all mental activities are nothing more than the result of a chain of causality whose primary factors are the physical constitution of the individual and the external world in which he find himself. Thus, we have the last difference between Engels and Marx. While the latter is an advocate of free will the former is a determinist.

Lenin held Anti-Duhring in great esteem, especially the passages describing the relation between freedom and necessity. He supported that all human actions are necessary and under the influence of Plekhanov he assumed historical materialism. What is interesting is that Lenin actually tried to defend Marx against claims that the philosophy he constructed was a deterministic one. However, in the process he actually developed a tighter determinism than Marx ever proposed. “The idea of determinism, which establishes the necessity of human actions and rejects the absurd tale of free will, does not in the least do away with either the intelligence or conscience of man, or the appraisal of his actions. Quite the contrary, only on the basis of a determinist view is it possible to make a strict and correct appraisal, instead of attributing everything you want to free Will.”[11]

Lenin completely rejects free will by not recognizing it as a real experience, free will is nothing more than the product of idealism which has nothing to do with reality. For him, historical conditions provide the sum total of all causes and criterions of judging actions. The external world gains total domination over the individual as his actions become nothing more than means for his goals which themselves are derived from the external world, even if in appearance it may seem that they are not.

At this point we can say that Lenin is in complete opposition with Marx. For him, human actions are determined by necessity, free will is fiction and morality should be judged on consequentialist principles instead of deontological principles. Because of this, Lenin enters into a cognitive dissonance with himself, for he is against ontological voluntarism, as will is not constitutive of reality, and against psychological voluntarism, as will does not precede the intellect. Will in Lenin’s view does not even have any moral value, because as an imaginary existence it has no impact on goodness. But, at the same time he promotes a voluntarist political model. Lenin’s historical voluntarism presumes that there is a part in human actions that is not determined by historical laws. However, this does not mean that there are no other laws, that are not historic which impact human action.

By taking Lenin personality into account and with the bias of hindsight, I cannot help but consider that in the process of leaving a loophole in his philosophy of voluntarism he aimed to place himself in that small room that finds itself outside the grasp of the laws of history, thus positioning himself and the party as the only mechanism that could go beyond these laws as their knowledge allowed them to utilize laws of which the proletariat where not aware of. This then provides significant support to authoritarians that have control over the government and over the propaganda machines for they can now dissipate the laws of history that the common have to follow while, while, at the same time, creating a space were the few that are meant to lead the country on the path towards dealienation are exempt from the laws of history. Through this, Lenin once again comes in opposition with Marx by rejecting the Workmanship ideal which seas all humans as equal and grants no human the right to claim superiority of access to god. In this case god is, by analogy, represented by the laws which govern the space that is not affected by the laws of history and in which Lenin and his close followers have placed themselves.

[1] Karl Marx, On the Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature, 304

[2] For Marx man is free in the way in which he realizes himself, his potentiality within the rules set forth by reality. For Marx man doesn’t have absolute freedom. Man is only bound by the laws of human essence, by laws that are implicit in his being, thus any external authority that wishes to place laws upon men is disregarded by Marx, such as an autocratic government or positive. By submitting to these forms of authority man submits to forces that stand outside of himself and thus fails to realize himself according to his internal laws. This is not to be interpreted as many anarchies have done that Marx is against the state for this is not true, he is against authoritarian states, states that function on the basis of a divinely preordained hierarchy which undermines human essence by undermining the principle of freedom.

[3] James J. O‘ Rourke, The Problem of Freedom in Marxist Thought, p. 18

[4] Karl Marx, On the Jewish Question, p. 370

[5] Productive activity is social activity, it always involves other humans

[6] Karl Marx, German Ideology p.33

[7] Ibid p.424

[8] Friedrich Engels, Anti-Duhring, p 157

[9] Friedrich Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, p 28

[10] Ibid p. 16

[11] Z. A. Jordan, in The Evolution of Dialectical Materialism, London, 157

Revolutionary Models

         While we have seen some significant difference in Marx’s and Engels’s view of freedom there are also a significant number of things that they do agree on. One of them is that: “No social order ever perishes before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have developed; and new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself.”[1] Also, both consider that once the material conditions of the capitalist age have reached maturity, it will be the working class that will play the key role in the transition towards the next step in historical materialism and in the emancipation of mankind.

I have to insist here that for capitalism and liberalism to reach their zenith, the accomplishment of the Kantian utopia is a must. Under this view, states are founded on such rights as equality before the law, free speech and elected representation. A society that has reached this state of development has abandoned the concept of zero sum games and has understood that reality is a positive sum game and that the gain of one does not have to come at the cost of another. The majority of society will have reached the rational level of development, understanding the importance of third person perspective, of experimentation and will have ceased to believe in unfounded myths or propaganda. The individual will have developed his consciousness and will have become able to be ‘stand-alone’ (will not need the guidance of anyone in order to act). Democracy will undoubtedly have prevailed at this point. “Republican representation and separation of powers are produced because they are the means by which the state is ‘organized well’ to prepare for and meet foreign threats (by unity) and to tame the ambitions of selfish and aggressive individuals. […] States that are not organized in this fashion fail. [Governments] thus encourage commerce and private property in order to increase national wealth. They cede rights of representation to their subjects in order to strengthen their political support or to obtain willing grants of tax revenue”[2]. Society has accepted materialistic monism through its behavior and has placed economic objectives as central stage for everything it does. Only once this is reached can we state the capitalism has reached maturity.

Global capitalist maturity, in the absolute sense, as presented above, would be required for an instant transformation as is desired through the concept of permanent revolution that Marx introduced in 1850 through the Address of the Central Authority of the Communist League (ACACL). In this, and in The Class Struggles in France Marx stresses political voluntarism as opposed to historical materialism, at least seemingly if one does not take into account the whole body of Marx’s work.

In ACACL, when addressing the German peasantry Marx called for the confiscation of feudal estates by the peasantry which should then be transformed into collectivized socialist agricultural colonies. Thus, driven us to think that a bourgeois democracy that would facilitate capitalist development is skipped. “While the democratic petty bourgeois wish to bring the revolution to a conclusion as quickly as possible, and with the achievement, at most, of the above demands, [petty bourgeois welfare reforms] it is our interest and our task to make the revolution permanent, until all more or less possessing classes have been forced out of their position of dominance, the proletariat has conquered state power, and the association of proletarians, not only in one country but in all the dominant countries of the world, has advanced so far that competition among the proletarians in these countries has ceased and that at least the decisive productive forces are concentrated in the hands of the proletarians. For us the issue cannot be the alteration of private property but only its annihilation, not the smoothing over of class antagonisms but the abolition of classes, not the improvement of the existing society but the foundation of a new one.”[3]  One is not to be blamed if they are confused when reading this passage and ends up thinking that there are two Marx, an intellectual one that has dived deep into philosophy and has developed the concept of historical materialism and the one here which seems to have lost his mind to hubris. Though, once we consider that ACACL was addressed to the Germans and look a bit into Germany’s economic situation, the perspective changes. This happens because even though Germany did not have the bourgeois democracy that France and the UK enjoyed it still managed to develop a strong industry and materially it was easily on par with the latter two. Thus, if we are true to material monism and accept the concept of equifinality (different open systems – such as a state – can start in different places, head in different directions and still end up in the same place, in this case in a mature capitalist state from Marx’s perspective), then Marx in no way diverged from historical materialism.

This should be further underlined by the Preface to the Second Russian Edition of the Manifesto as well as in his writing in Capital Vol.1. Marx argued in both that Russia, taken by itself, had not yet reached the necessary level of development that would allow it to start moving towards a communist revolution and that if it wanted to do such a thing by itself it first had to develop a strong capitalist foundation. The exception to this would be: “If the Russian Revolution becomes the signal for a proletarian revolution in the West, so that the two complement each other, the present Russian common ownership of land may serve as the starting point for communist development”[4]

The general structure of Marx’s movement towards communism is through the interlude of the socialist society. The interlude is a necessity because after the revolution we would be dealing with communist society “not as it has developed on its own foundations, but on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society, which is thus in every respect, economically, morally and intellectually, still stamped with the birth-marks of the old society from whose womb it emerges.”[5] Because of the division of labor, an antithesis was created between physical and mental labor, transforming workers into mindless robots that labored for subsistence and nothing more. Work cannot be seen as something meaningful in itself by the society that has just said no to the capitalist system. Thus, in this stage people still need to be convinced to work. Marx envisioned that in the initial phase of the transition workers should receive certificates (money) that would allow them to draw from the social stock the same amount of work as they put in. The moto for this initial phase would be “From each according to his ability to each according to his labor”.

In the socialist phase the promise of liberal capitalism, of the workmanship ideal, is realized and every individual becomes the owner of his own creation. “…Hence, equal right here is still in principle bourgeois right, although principle and practice are no longer at loggerheads, while the exchange of equivalents in commodity exchange exists only on the average and not in the individual case…”[6]. There are of course some down sides to this intermediate step that Marx highlights in the Critique of the Gotha Program.  “In spite of this advance, this equal right is still constantly stigmatized by a bourgeois limitation. The right of the producers is proportional to the labor they supply; the equality consists in the fact that measurement is made with an equal standard, labor”[7]. Even if you reward people equally for their work there is going to be inequality in society, because for labor “to serve as a measure, [it] must be defined by its duration or intensity, otherwise it ceases to be a standard of measurement”[8]. Given then that some are stronger, wittier, faster, etc than others and that payment is given in return to the amount of work delivered on the basis of socially necessary labor time, some will still get more than others. “It tacitly recognizes unequal individual endowment, and thus productive capacity, as a natural privilege. It is therefore a right of inequality”[9].

In the second phase labor is expected to have become a prime want and not something practiced from survival need. Only once society has recognized labor as a means can it transition the communist system and to the new moto “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs”. Until labor becomes “life’s prime want,” socialism as the first phase of communism requires the enforcement of bourgeois right. In Russia, labor was not a prim want. Because of that, in Marx’s opinion, it had to maintain bourgeois rights following the revolution.

Marxism emerged in Russia under the lead of Plekhanov, in the 1880s, and can be referred to as critical Marxist. The movement had two heads, one in Switzerland which was driven by Plekhanov and another in Russia which was driven by his ‘disciple’[10], Lenin. During its formative years, the Marxist movement in Russia focused on distinguishing Marxist orthodox socialism, based on historical materialism, from Russian Populism[11] and on arguing against the Bernsteinian model of trade-union reforms[12]. In addition to trade reforms, Bernstein held that the capitalist class must lead the democratic revolution because in order for them to flourish history demanded the fall of autarchy.

Plekhanov and Lenin disagreed with the Bernsteinian model, giving Bonapartist France as example for a failed revolution because the autarchs managed to reach a deal with the capitalists because of the meager number of the latter. Lenin argued that the only real revolutionary force would be the peasantry as they could be counted on to follow-through till the end with the overthrow of the Tsarist rule. Given that in the process they would also be eliminating the landlord rule. In “What the Friends of the People Are”, Lenin emphasized that this should not be a populist revolution and described Russian populism as simple-minded, underlining that populism didn’t understand the importance of developing a movement within the industrial working class.

 You will see though that there seems to be a trend with Lenin, whereby he adopts that which he critics. As we saw in the case of his critique on determinism in Marxist thought, after writing against it he actually ended up supporting it. Here with Populism, after writing against the simple-mindedness of such an approach he adopts two populist elements that become pivotal to his revolutionary model: 1) a revolutionary party formed out of social elites, and 2) confiscation of everything owned by the landlord class.

At the end of the 19th century one thing could have been said to have been quite clear with regards to Russia, namely that it was far from being a developed or mature capitalist economy. And that under the model of historical materialism it either had to develop a capitalist infrastructure and grow it to maturity or unite in an international communist revolution with other developed capitalist countries that could make up for its retard. In 1899, while in captivity in Siberia, Lenin decided that it is time to change this perspective of Russia as an underdeveloped economy. Thus, he argued in “The Development of Capitalism in Russia” that his country was in the capitalist phase of production.

I am driven here to consider that this is one of the first times that Lenin realizes that he can exploit the Marxist model for his own use as long as he can implant in the mind of the populous the idea that what they are aligned with is Marxian thought. Reality mattered little to Lenin, for he believed himself and his elite group to be situated outside of the normal laws of reality that bounded the rest of humanity (as we saw in the previous chapter). Hence, in his revolutionary structure, he differentiated between two roles: the elites and the working class. The elites where the ones that had to create an ideology, for they were the ones that had the cognitive ability to understand the overall Marxist theory, while the rest had to be agitated to act spontaneously for they were not considered to have the ability to plan and to do cognition driven acts. If you are thinking that looks like the age-old aristocrat or absolutistic model, where a handful of people believe themselves to be superior by nature (cognition is replacing god) – while in fact, abilities are distributed normally throughout all social classes and it is access which defined how far someone reaches – then you are right.

Bernstein, even though in his time a critic of early Marx (or what was known to be early Marx as his Critique of Hegel was not published at that time) and a strong critique of Marxist perspectives that were heavily rooted in Hegelian Metaphysics or dialectics was still closer to the amalgam of Marx’s thought than Lenin and his cohort ever were. He believed in the ability of the working class to develop a revolutionary socialist political consciousness on their own, saw trade-unions as key in the process of this development and was aiming at incremental gains through what was called “tactics-as-process”. The problem with this method was that it would have made the elites that Lenin was talking about far less powerful than he would have wanted and would have ruined all the work that Lenin had put into developing his special room outside of the grasp of the ordinary laws of reality.

Of course, Lenin and other critical Marxist deeply disagreed with this approach arguing that via such an approach they would end up supporting the capitalists and bettering their system by falling pray to the capitalist frame work. Now we have two choices, we could either say that: 1) the Russian Critical Marxists were completely ignorant of Marx’s Historical Materialism, as Marx requires for revolution under historical materialism that the problem, the antithesis, awaken within the system that is to be changed, the thesis, and then create the new system by solving the problem, the synthesis. Under this view we could excuse them as many of Marx’s texts, such as his critique on Hegel, were not published at that time; or 2) go with the initial proposition with which I started this paragraph and see this as part of their tactic to take control over the Russian state. I would underline this possibility by making a distinction between two Marx, as Bernstein did, and deciding then which to support. Here the choice would lay between a young man full of hubris or an old man summarizing his life’s work on the basis of the totality of wisdom he has absorbed through experience and knowledge. If we were to make the choice on good faith and rationality, of which I consider Lenin to have been perfectly capable, instead of conviction or desire we would have to go with the latter Marx instead of the former as Lenin did[13].

Getting back to the revolutionary model, what Lenin was selling the people, was a revolution that would end with the decisive victory of the people over the tsarist regime and the creation of the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. “And such a victory will be precisely a dictatorship, i.e., it must inevitably rely on military force, on the arming of the masses, on an insurrection, and not on institutions of one kind or another established in a ‘lawful’ or ‘peaceful’ way. It can only be a dictatorship, for the realization of the changes urgently and absolutely indispensable to the proletariat and the peasantry will evoke desperate resistance from the landlords, the big bourgeoisie, and tsarism. Without a dictatorship it is impossible to break down that resistance and repel counter-revolutionary attempts.”[14]

In addition, he writes “that all worship of the spontaneity of the working-class movement, all belittling of the role of ‘the conscious element’, of the role of Social-Democracy, means, quite independently of whether he who belittles that role desires it or not, a strengthening of the influence of bourgeois ideology upon the workers”[15]. Through this he makes an enemy of everyone who does not agree with him. It is very important for his model that he be the only real prophet of Marxist thought and revolutionary theory. Thus, he would gain the ability to designate anyone that would go against him as a counterrevolutionary and transform them into the enemy of the people.

Here comes some more of the irony I mentioned in footnote 29: “But of course it will be a democratic, not a socialist dictatorship. It will be unable (without a series of intermediary stages of revolutionary development) to affect the foundations of capitalism. At best, it may bring about a radical redistribution of landed property in favor of the peasantry, establish consistent and full democracy, including the formation of a republic, eradicate all the oppressive features of Asiatic bondage, not only in rural but also in factory life, lay the foundation for a thorough improvement in the conditions of the workers and for a rise in their standard of living, and—last but not least—carry the revolutionary conflagration into Europe. Such a victory will not yet, by any means transform our bourgeois revolution into a socialist revolution; the democratic revolution will not immediately overstep the bounds of bourgeois social and economic relationships; nevertheless, the significance of such a victory for the future development of Russia and of the whole world will be immense. Nothing will raise the revolutionary energy of the world proletariat so much, nothing will shorten the path leading to its complete victory to such an extent, as this decisive victory of the revolution that has now started in Russia”[16]. The irony comes of course from the fact that while stating this what Lenin is actually proposing is a centralized government that owns all the land and that represents the peasantry and thus he calls it the dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry. This is like saying that aristocracy or absolute monarchy is the dictatorship of the peasants and that at the same time it also provides social justice.

Even with all these absurdities and contradictions, Lenin succeeded in imposing his centralized approach and developed a new party status that called for a group known as the Iskra to become the controlling ideological organ of the party doctrine. Thus, agitation replaced development of the forces of production as the key to the revolution, or in other words voluntarism replace historical materialism, and Lenin’s thoughts replaced Marx’s thoughts, though he still maintained the same brand.

[1] Karl Marx, Preface to a Critique of Political Economy, in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels Selected Works, vol. 1, p. 363–364.

[2] Liberalism and World Politics – Michael W. Doyle, p 11

[3] Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Address of the Central Authority to the League, in Karl Marx Frederick Engels Collected Works, p. 281

[4] Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Preface to the Second Russian Edition of the Manifesto of the Communist Party, in Karl Marx Frederick Engels Collected Works, p. 426.

[5] Karl Marx, Critique of the Gotha Program, in Karl Marx Frederick Engels Collected Works, p. 85.

[6] Ibid. p. 59

[7] Ibid. p. 59

[8] Ibid. p. 84

[9] Ibid. p. 84

[10] I’m using disciple in the sense that Lenin followed on the path first paved by Plekhanov. In addition, as other disciples in European history (thinking about the relationship between Husserl and Heidegger in this case) Lenin also diverged from the path paved by his ‘mentor’ and went on building an antagonistic road.

[11] I have to mention here a note of irony, created by the fact that while Russian Marxists first started their journey by contrasting themselves with populism they ended up being a populist movement hidden behind cherry picked Marxist slogans.

[12] Bernstein was a German social-democrat, who supported that immediate objective of improving the lives of the working-class through trade-union reforms had to take precedence to the so called ultimate goal of Marxism, which was the nationalization of the means of production. For Bernstein economic reform was everything while that which was generally considered the ultimate aim of socialism was nothing.

[13] He did not go with the former, as should have become clear by now. But, under the veil of information asymmetry he was able to pretend to have gone with the former.

[14] Lenin, Two Tactics of Social-Democracy, p. 56

[15] Lenin, What is to be Done, p. 382-383

[16] Lenin, Two Tactics of Social-Democracy, p. 56-57

The State

           As we enter the last segment before the conclusion, I think it is only fitting that we wrap things up as we started them and once again take on the discussion from the point of Hegel’s writings as it will help us to better accentuate the subtle differences between Marx’s and Lenin’s view of the state.

In his Philosophy of Right, Hegel supported that we should look at the state from the perspective of the universal’s historical movement. For him, the state was an expression of the dialectics of the universal consciousness and an ethical community in which human freedom reaches perfection. This view is conflicting with the contractarian view of the state because from this perspective the state is not just an apparatus to which free man consent to protect their freedom and interests, but, rather, the sin qua non of freedom. The Hegelian view holds that it is not the individual who should be guiding himself, but the state who should be guiding the individual, as only with the help of the state can humans achieve liberation and freedom.

Hegel ethics underlines his consideration of the state as the essence of freedom. Hegel differentiates between 3 normative orders:

1)     The abstract right where individuals act on the basis of reciprocity. This is the liberal view of rights where I can do whatever I want so long as I do not hinder others from doing the same. Under this view, property is essential and so is freedom as only free-living being can possess property. The will and freedom are both focused and dependent on an external object.

2)     Morality, looks at individuals as being capable of conscious action. Here the will is directed upon the individual not upon external objects. The individual sees himself as a moral agent can shift his actions away from his immediate self-interest. Here, the will is free to reject what is coming from the outside, in the sense that he can reject tit-for-tat behavior that is object driven, but it cannot create.

3)     Ethical Life, represents the highest normative order and is equivalent to freedom made existent or the universal pulled down to earth. Here individual and universal interests converge. Freedom becomes positive, unlike in the case of morality, and is equivalent to the ability to act in accordance to consciously accepted universal interests.

In the normative order of ethical life, the individual interprets state rules as being made of his own design as he has bridged the gap between self and other. Hegel provides a tripartite division of ethical life, but we will not go to deep into it as the focus of this paper is not a discussion of Hegelian ethics. All we will say is that the family and civil society which are both a form of ethical life do not cover a broad enough spectrum of humanity in order to afford the universality that the state affords and thus the latter becomes the essence towards the union with the absolute.

               Under this metaphysical view, the state allows humans to take their place in the historic development of the universal mind by allowing human beings to acquire universal consciousness and facilitating self-knowledge through the Geist.

               Marx, who as we have shown in the first segment, is critical of this whole endeavor of a world contingent upon absolute mind considers the above Hegelian structure to be an inversion of subject and predicate, same as he does with the rest of the Hegelian metaphysics[1]. For Marx, “the political state cannot exist without the natural basis of the family and the artificial basis of civil society. These are its sine qua non; and yet the condition is posited as the conditioned, the determinator as the determined, the producer as the product.”[2]

               Marx sees significant problems emerging out of this denatured position. He considers that all it does is to propagate particular interests through bureaucrats, political institutions and military force rather instead of engendering universal thinking in civil society, goal which Hegel claims to be perusing.

Marx insists that the liberals and contractarians were right and that this universality of the state that Hegel alleges is merely cloaked individualism. In this case, it would be the individualism of the bureaucratic class. For the bureaucrat, under the Hegelian system, would become a cleavage within society, thus falling to the level of a civil society and not of a state and being unacceptable as universal under Hegel’s own philosophy of rights.

However, both see the crowning achievement of history in the reconciliation of human beings with the universal, in bridging the subjective/individualistic experience with the objective/universal experience. For Marx, this is to be achieved by bridging the alienation between man and his work which he views as achievable in what he calls communism. His communism is the total transformation of human existence, the recuperation of human essence. “human emancipation will only be complete when the real, individual man has absorbed into himself the abstract citizen; when as an individual man, in everyday life, in his work, and in his relationships, he has become a species-being; and when he has recognized and organized his own powers (forces propres) as social powers so that he no longer separates this social power from himself as political power”[3]

Hegel’s model of the state maintains a clear duality between civil society and state, between private life and political life, this in Marx’s opinion is unacceptable if one wishes to transcend towards a middle way that bridges the two ends of the polarity. For true freedom do be achieved, in Marx’s view, the state needs to be stripped of its appearance that it had a world-historical purpose aside from serving the desires of the individuals that ruled it. Just as the alienation between work and personal life is eliminated so too must the alienation from community life and from ruling the state be eliminated. A reintegration between the private and the political and between the individual and the communal needs to be achieved.

In his Critique of Hegel, Marx states that democracy is the political form of organization that would allow for the overcoming of this alienation. He writes: “Democracy is the solution to the riddle of every constitution. In it we find the constitution founded on its true ground: real human beings and the real people; not merely implicitly and in essence, but in existence and in reality. The constitution is thus posited as the people’s own creation. The constitution is in appearance what it is in reality: the free creation of man”[4]

The political state is dissolved in the Marxian democratic model[5], because as long as there are representatives, indifferent of the way in which they are elected, it is impossible for them not to be cut off from the people who they are supposed to represent.

Sadly, it’s hard to draw any more conclusions with regards to Marx’s view of the state as he never went on to characterize in much detail how such a society would function beyond the idealistic sphere, which is in part ironical given that he considered himself to be a materialist. Though, if he truly imagined a world without a state, without governing institutions, it is hard to actually go into the details of how such a world should look like without by mistake placing emphasis on various form of collaboration that would later on not face the risk of being transformed by fans of his ideology into future institutions. Thus, Marx has only touched upon the description of the communist society and the communist style of administration in his writing on the Paris commune. There he states: ”the reabsorption of the State power by society as its own living forces instead of as forces controlling and subduing it, by the popular masses themselves, forming their own force instead of the organized force of their suppression – the political form of their social emancipation, instead of the artificial force … of society wielded for their oppression by their enemies”[6]

Like Marx, Lenin viewed the state as an alienated mirror of human consciousness and as a mindless subordinate to class and property interests. His reservations about the state lead him to the similar conclusion, that human beings can lead authentic lives only in a society in which the state has been transcended. But, as we have seen in the previous two chapters, Lenin will once again go in the poral opposite direction to his realization, he will create a more alienated state, a state where there is a bigger gap between the political life and the private life than ever before.

As we have seen in the previous chapter, Lenin did not consider that the workers could develop an independent ideology by taking their fate out of the hands of their leaders and considered that this view, which was supported by the Social Democrat party was profoundly mistaken. Lenin sees socialist consciousness as something only the bourgeois could develop as it requires specialized knowledge, knowledge which can be attained only with a high level of education, which is only available to the bourgeois intelligentsia. Thus, in Lenin’s version we have a retreat to a sort of Hegelian bureaucrats, but in the form of the bourgeois intelligentsia, who has adopted the true Marxist view as proclaimed by Lenin, who represent the state and hand down directives on its behalf. The proletariat under this model were supposed to give up on their spontaneity for it was part of a lower normative order and concede authority to the representatives of the state, in this case the party who were part of the higher normative order.

The above view which is strongly supported in “What is to be done” seems at first to be in counter with the view from Lenin’s “State and Revolution”. For in the latter Lenin argues for the dictatorship of the proletariat, for a state that will only last until the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois resistance is obliterated and all property has been equally distributed to the whole of the population, following which it will dissolve.

But, if we go with the interpretation proposed by Alfred B. Evans who suggests that the book had tactical value in positioning the Bolshevik Party, we will find that there are no real contradiction between “State and Revolution” and “What is to be done”, as might appear at first sight. Evans’ position gets additional support when we consider that Lenin denies in the former the Hegelian notion that the state can stand above civil society or that it can dissolve the schism between class interest and ethical community. In addition, we see in “State and Revolution” a strong emphasis that is being placed on the need to reestablish a pure Marxism. The title of the book was in truth nothing more than a veil under which Lenin could infect through very refined propaganda the minds of his readers with the idea that he was the one true source of Marxist thought. Like a religious cult leader, he took the ‘bible’ into his hand (the citations from Marx in this case) and while holding it he said that he was the only one who had clear and unobstructed access to the knowledge left behind by the Messiah of communism. And, of course like all religious cult leaders, his will was never to actually reestablish what his Messiah, Marx, really thought, but just to use the ‘lord’s name’ in order to achieve his goals. I here strongly second Evans view that this book is nothing more than a very well applied means of propaganda. It is a masterpiece of sophism that uses straw man, cherry picking and appeal to authority – just to name a few of what we now consider logical fallacies – in order to support a point.

Lenin, in actuality saw that the state had a leading role in orchestrating social change, in truth he didn’t support dissolving the state, but it’s expansion on the Hegelian model. The state here does not represent any sort of class antagonism on the contrary the state is highly necessary in order to ‘guide’ a society of ‘lost beings’ that are disconnected from the absolute and to ‘help’ these ‘lost beings’ bridge their individual perception with that of universal consciousness, to ‘help them escape’ the clutches of the hedonic treadmill that they have been placed on by liberal and contractarian views. And let us not talk about ‘escaping the alienation and exploitation that they have underwent’.

I do hope that you have read parts of the above with an ironical tone in mind because with the bias of hindsight I cannot truly support the above statements even though they may have been what Lenin was trying to get across. I have to consider them as weapons of propaganda designed to help him build his authoritarian empire. This does not mean that I consider that he would have wanted to engage in imperialism later on, nor that he wouldn’t. On this point I am agnostic. All this means is that all the action that Lenin took were there to prepare Russia for an absolute Ruler of the secular age, one that does not need the justification of God, for as we were made aware by the liberals everybody has equal right of interpretation to the words of God as none is closer to him than the other. Thus, he created a ruler that is there because of laws to which not all beings have equal access, laws to which only a few can get access as it requires them to be of the intelligentsia. In truth, Lenin designed the best authoritarian system seen up till his day for it rests on nothing more than someone’s sophistic talent and everyone seems to accept the right to rule by sophism instead of the right to rule on the grounds of truth

[1] Note that this is a gross oversimplification of both Hegelian metaphysics and Marx’s critique to it. The first segment of the essay provides a more nuanced critique.

[2] Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume I, p. 29

[3] Karl Marx, “On the Jewish Question” in Early Wrilings (Bottomore, trans: New York. Toronto. London: McGraw-Hili Book Company, 1964 [1963]). P. 31.

[4] Marx. “Critique of Hegel’s Doctrine of the State”, p. 87

[5] “it is scarcely possible to avoid perceiving that Marx goes well beyond the intellectual bounds of liberal constitutionalism”. In fact, by ‘democracy’, Marx means something quite different from the contemporary understanding of the word. For Marx, democracy does not imply a representative government characterized by a division between the public and private realm; rather, it signifies “the organic community typified by the city-states of Antiquity (communities not yet split into ‘civil society’ versus ‘political society’)” || Lucio CoIletti Introduction to Karl Marx: Early Writings, p. 40-41.

[6] Karl Marx, Civil War in France, p. 168


          As we have seen there are significant differences between Marx and Lenin, so significant that it is hard to say that they ever had anything in common except for a propensity towards using the same words. I hope that at this point there is none left that would argue that both ever wanted the same thing. Because we can clearly see that while Marx wanted to free and empower the whole humanity, Lenin wanted to do that only for a hand full of people while binding the rest to this group. While Marx wanted to enable all people to develop their consciousness, Lenin considered that some were just beyond help and that it makes no sense to actually try and that, given this, they should just be ruled. While Marx made all of his statements from the critical position of a philosopher, social scientist and political-economics theorist, Lenin made them from the position of a charismatic leader, a sophist who only cared about achieving a certain outcome…  I could go on further, but I think that the point is rather clear.

               Before I close, there is still an appeal I need to make to all my fellow comrades from the ex-populist-autarchic-mercantilist countries that were part of the Soviet bloc and that currently are facing a new wave of this sort of mentality. While we must understand that people were ravaged by the events that took place in 2007/8 because of the financial crisis and the events that followed it does not mean that all capitalism should be discarded because as we have seen in this inquiry the abundance that capitalism can generate is necessary for the development of the communist utopia that Marx proposed. While it is true that a classless world with the homogeneity that Marx presented (where one can be whatever one wants whenever one wants) is to be desired, we must ask ourselves if we have really reached that state of technological development where this can be achieved. Currently, I consider that this sort of super abundance and the rapid learning that would be necessary to allow for such a fast transmutation between varied roles would require near singularity level development (singularity as used by Ray Kurzweil). To the liberals from these countries, I say, when you see young people that are supporting socialist agendas do not think by default that they are supporting the doctrine that killed over 100 million people and that ruined the lives of over a billion, for that is based on a different doctrine, on the doctrine represented by Lenin. While I accept that the terms are charged by the many memories of the past, we can apply our critical thinking and realize that what most of them will be referring to will have nothing to do with that forsaken past.

               I hope that this essay will have been of help in moving the debate between these two factions, liberals and socialists, to a higher level where they will see their communalities and where they can work together to block the advance of the illiberal agenda.


1.      Andrew White, Lenin on Democracy: January 1916 to October 1917 [Ezra’s Archives]

2.      Arthur Holmes, A History of Philosophy, Wheaton College

3.      Brian Aarons, Marxist theories of revolution [Australian Left Review, 1972]

4.      Esther Kingston-Mann, Lenin and the Problem of Marxist Peasant Revolution [Oxford University Press, 1983]

5.      E. Ree, Marxism as permanent revolution [History of Political Thought, 2013]

6.      Friedrich Engels, Anti-Duhring [CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015]

7.      Friedrich Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy [Foreign Languages Press, 1976]

8.      Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, The Phenomenology of Spirit [Cambridge University Press, 2018]

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