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S&S Quarterly, Inc.

Guilford Press
A Return to Lenin But without Marx and Engels?
Author(s): August H. Nimtz
Source: Science & Society, Vol. 73, No. 4 (Oct., 2009), pp. 452-473
Published by: Guilford Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40404590
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Science& Society,
Vol. 73, No. 4, October 2009, 452-473

/'
V

A Returnto Lenin- ButWithout


Marx and Engels?
AUGUST H. NIMTZ
ABSTRACT:
Recentsympathetic
ofLeninruntherisk
re-readings
ofdivorcing
orunnecessarily
hisprojectfromthatof
distancing
Marxand Engels.One of themanyclaimsin LarsLih's Lenin

WhatIs to Be Done in Context


Rediscovered:
is that"Marxas incarnatedbyEuropeanSocialDemocracy
and theGermanSPD in particu-

lar"especially
itstheoretical
leaderKarlKautsky,
wasthe"inspiration"
fortheBolshevik
A closereading
ofMarx
leader'spolitics.
and Engelson theRussianquestionas wellas Leninup to and
Is toBeDonedisputesthisargument,
on
a variant
includingWhat
a long-held
and themoregeneralclaimaboutthe
assumption,
MarxandEngelsaccubetween
theirprojects.
supposeddistance
theyoung
theRussianRevolution
andprovided
rately
anticipated
Leninwiththenecessary
toolsforapplying
theirprogram
to its
RatherthanKautsky
and theGermanparty,
itwastheir
reality.
and program
thathe drewuponto understand
and
perspective
as
notonlyin Russiabutin Germany
respondto developments,
of
well.ThisenabledLenintoappreciate
notonlythestrengths
- Lih'sfocus- butalsoitsweaknesses.
German
SocialDemocracy

POTENTIALLYPOSITIVEDEVELOPMENTIN THE STUDY


in Lenin.
interest
ofrevolutionary
Marxism
is thenewfound
The recentpublication
ofa collectionofessaysthatmainly
in 2001
originatedin a conferenceon theRussianrevolutionary
proweighty and,unfortunately,
(Budgen,etai, 2007), anda very
Lars
one
of
the
tome
hibitively
expensive
by
participants, Lih
excluthis
Lih's
advance.
(2006) registers
magnum
opusdevotesitself
Is
Be
with
toone ofLenin'sbest-known
works,What to Done?, a
sively
The appearanceofthetwobooksis
newand improved
translation.
452

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A RETURN TO LENIN

453

a caveatBothreinforce,
to be applauded- with,however,
implicthe
old
and
still
reiterated
or
and
not,
marxological
itly, unwittingly
fableaboutthesupposeddistancebetweenLenin'sproject,on the
one hand,andthatofMarxandEngels,on theother.In so doingan
caseforLenin'sconis losttomakea moreconvincing
opportunity
for
those
authors
who
so believe.
at
least
relevance,
tinuing
ofessays
isunambiguous.
tothecollection
introduction
Theeditors'
toMarx:
He
Lenin'sexternality
with
Onecannot
enough
regard
emphasize
ofMarx'sinnercircleoftheinitiated.
wasnota member
Indeed,henever
hecamefrom
a landattheeastern
borders
metMarxorEngels.
Moreover,
his
. . . Leninviolently
Civilization."
of"European
Marx,tearing
displaces
historical
itinanother
outofitsoriginal
moment,
context,
planting
theory
etai, 2007,2-3.)
it.(Budgen,
andthuseffectively
universalizing
a rhetorical
deviceto getthereader'sattenPerhapsthisis simply
to thesupposeddistance
credence
tion,butitunfortunately
gives
somequitenotable
to thecollection,
claim.Of the17 contributors
andAntonio
Etienne
Balibar
likeTerryEagleton,Fredric
Jameson,
case
Lih
make
an
and
Lars
2izek
explicit forLenin
Negri,onlySlavoj
todayviahisrootsin Marx.
He
Lihposesthequestion:"WheredidLeningethisinspiration?
from
and
but
more
be
to
it
from
sure,
Marx,
concretely effectively
got
Marx as incarnatedbyEuropeanSocial Democracyand theGermanSPD in

In hismassivetomeLih
(ibid.,287 [italicsin original]).1
particular*'
he arguesthattheverysuccessof
on thisclaim.In general,
elaborates
andwhatithadbeenabletoaccomplish,
itshistory
theGermanparty,
iswhat
intheworld,
themostsuccessful
exampleofSocialDemocracy
in
be
done
that
the
same
could
gavetheyoungLenintheconfidence
Lih's central
Is toBeDone?(hereafter
Russia.What
WITBD)issquarely,
Social
of
in
tradition
the
Democracy.
European
argument,
Morespecifically,
Lih,on thebasisof quotesand citationsin
Lenin'swritings
WITBD,arguesthatKarlKautsky,
priortoandwithin
exerciseda decisiveinflutheso-called"pope"ofSocialDemocracy,
ence on theyoungLeninwhenhe wasjustcomingintorevolutionin 1894of
Lenin'stranslation
arypolitics.The keyevidenceis,first,
hiscommentary
TheErfurt
mostpopularwriting,
Programme,
Kautsky's
a
theexternality
thesisoftheeditorsofthecollection,
1 Lih'sthesis,
therefore,
challenges
factthathe implicitly
recognizes.

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454

SCIENCE f SOCIETY

in
in Erfurt
on theGermanparty's
program
adoptedat itscongress
1891.2In a draftprogram
forRussianSocialDemocracy
thatLenin
wrotein 1899he says:"Weare notin theleastafraidto saythatwe
wanttoimitatetheErfurt
(Lenin,1977,Vol.4, 235Programme"
hereafter
forLih is thelong- and,
LCW,4, 235). Alsoimportant
that"socialist
forsome,controversial quoteinWITBDbyKautsky
is somethingintroducedintotheproletarianclass
consciousness
fromwithout"
(LCW,5, 384). Thisis theevidencethatLih
struggle
to describeLenin.
thelabel "RussianErfurtian"
employstojustify
Lihiscorrect
towhathe callsthe
tomakethecase,inopposition
Leninsympathizas
well
as
to
some
"textbook"
of
Lenin,
rendering
erson theleft,thatLeninshouldbe situatedin EuropeanSocial
later
tobe addressed
atleast- animportant
Democracy,
qualification
- at a certainstagein hisdevelopment.3
Buttheproblemwiththe
"Marxas incarnated"
isthatitconcealshowLeninlearned
formulation
ofGerand developedMarx'sand Engels'programindependently
Marx
I arguethatLeninmastered
manSocialDemocracy
andKautsky.
Exand notthoseofKautsky.
and Engelsthrough
theirownwritings
the
assess
both
for
reason
he
could
more
this
strengths
actly
accurately
- his
anditsleadership
ofGermanSocialDemocracy
andweaknesses
notwithstandasa modeloforganization
praiseinWITBDfortheparty
is to failto
Lenin
this
fact
about
To
not
essential
appreciate
ing.
the
German
with
both
understand
he
could
eventually
partways
why
Kautsky.
including
partyand itsleadership,
ProtheErfurt
At theverymomentthatLeninwastranslating
on
had
written
an
article
commented
on
Kautsky
Engels
gramme,
author
its
to
which
"the
extent
It
for
strikes.
revealed
Engels
political
has losttouchwiththelivingpartymovement"
(Marxand Engels,
MECW,50,261). Ofcourse,thereis
1975,Vol.50,261 hereafter
no waythatLenincouldhaveknownaboutEngels'lessthanpositive
- notforthefirst
time- butitanticipated
ofKautsky
assessment
wouldlaterdirectatthe"pope"
he himself
justthekindofcriticisms
ofEuropeanSocialDemocracy.
ofLih's
tobe a review
hereinnowaypretends
Whatispresented
which
without
of
and
valuable
rereading WITBD,
800-page
impressive
1971.
see Kautsky,
2 FortheEnglishtranslation
on LeninthatLihfailsto notewhodoes
writer
or "textbook"
3 Thereis one Leninologist
Marx& EngelsandLenin:NeilHarding(1996).
between
aboutthecontinuity
getitright
Harding'sproblemis thathe hatestheirpolitics.He is incapable,I contend,ofbeing
honestaboutwhattheystoodfor.

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A RETURN TO LENIN

455

ofthelatter
willbe inadequate.
thefocus
treatment
Rather,
anyfuture
basedon the
is on hisspecificclaimaboutthe"RussianErfurtian"
namelyLenin'swritings
up to and
specificevidencehe marshals,
is
no
to
address
thelarger
WITBD.There
need,therefore,
including
withMarxand Engels.Thatis a fucontinuity
questionofBolshevik
moreelaborateprojectforwhichthismorelimtureand,necessarily,
itedobject- thegenealogyofLenin'sprogramand politics- is
required.
the"pope,"
After
MarxandEngels,I alsoargue,noone,including
denizen
from
better
than
the
and
their
ideas
Lenin,
politics
grasped
RatherthanexternalbordersofEuropeancivilization."
the"eastern
tybestdescribesLenin'srelationto theirproject.Marx
ity,centrali
atsuchan outcome.Their
andEngelswouldnothavebeensurprised
of
"materialist
preparedthemforsuch"ironies."
conception history"
I intendnowtoprovideevidencefortheseclaims.A necessary
place
andpoliticsas itrelated
tobeginiswithMarx'sandEngels'program
in Russia(also requiredin anyfutureinquiryon
to developments
withMarxand Engels).4
Bolshevik
continuity
MarxandEngelsonRussia
Association
Six yearsafterthe International
Workingmen's
in London,
in
was
launched
1864
or
First
International,
(IWMA),
wasaskedbyRusMarx,whoquicklyemergedas itsleadingfigure,
on thegoverning
sianyouthin exiletobe theirrepresentative
body,
ofMarx'sformaltiesto
theGeneralCouncil- thecommencement
He thought
therequestironic
movement.
theRussianrevolutionary
ofRussia.ButMarxtooktherequestsegivenhispriordeprecation
and untilhisdeathin 1883and thatof
and
riously enthusiastically,
later
hispartner
12
theybothprioritized
developments
Engels years
in Russia.
in PolishRussiain 1863
ofa peasantuprising
The combination
outbreak
thatitwouldsparka similar
andMarx'sexpectation
among
- "emancipated"
the
theirRussiancounterparts
by Czarin 1861Therevolutionary
forhimthatthe"lavawillflowEasttoWest."
signaled
4 One ofthepurposesofmyMarxandEngels(2000) is tosee towhatextenttheprogram
theRussianRevolution
and theBolsheviks.
and politicsofMarxand Engelsanticipated
nineandten,andmyarticle"TheEurocentric
MarxandEngels
seechapters
Forspecifics
and otherRelatedMyths"
(2002).

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456

SCIENCE f SOCIETY

process,in otherwords,wouldbeginin Russia'sempireand move


thestandard
westward.
Sucha conclusion
marxological
challenges
- readingofthetworevolutionaries,
whatLihmightcall"textbook"
theirperspective
thatis,thattheyintended
onlyfortheadvancedcapitalistworldofWestern
Europe.A closeand politicalreadingofthe
twodisputessucha claim.The fateoftherevolutionary
processin
Marx
as
little
corner
of
the
Western
"this
earth,"
sarcastically
Europe,
in the
elsewhere
referred
to itin 1857,dependedon developments
forMarxand Engels.
world theactualtheaterofoperations
Marx'sgrowing
renown,owingto hisleadershipin theIWMA,
of
thatcamewiththepublication
in combination
withtheattention
him.
wanted
exiles
to
in
led
the
Russian
is
what
They
Capital 1867,
Marxto represent
them,as theyexplainedin theirletter,"because
wasso similarin Germany
thepracticalcharacter
ofthemovement
knownand
ofMarxwereso generally
and Russia[and] thewritings
the
Russian
youth"(GeneralCouncil,1974,220). So
appreciated
by
to have
washisbookthatsomeofthemtooktheinitiative
attractive
version.Eight
non-German
itpublishedin 1872in Russian,thefirst
thatitwasin Russia"whereCapitalis
yearslaterMarxcommented
else" (MECW,46,
morewidelyreadand acclaimedthananywhere
thestandard
sinceitagaincontradicts
45). Allofthisis noteworthy
ofhisideasto lessdeversionaboutthesupposednon-applicability
Russiansevidently
disagreed.
velopedsocieties.Radicalizing
WhiledoingresearchforCapitalMarxbecamequiteinterested
whichspurred
thepeasantry,
inRussia,particularly
indevelopments
hiswife,describedit,
himin early1870to learnRussian.AsJenny,
oflifeanddeath."
Russianasifitwerea matter
"hehasbegunstudying
Narodniksoboth
oftwoRussians,
The politicaleconomywritings
cialists,impactedhim.One of them,NikolaiChernyshevsky,
published,bytheway,hismostpopularbook in 1863,a socialistand
feminist
novelwhosetitlewouldbe theveryone Leninwouldusefor
Classin Russiaby
WITBD. Afterreading TheCondition
oftheWorking
N. Flerovsky(pseudonymofVasilyBervi),the otherauthor,a work
book published
thatMarxdescribedto Engelsas "themostimportant
Class"
the
since yourworkon the Condition
(MECW, 43,
of Working
424), Marx stated:

... isirresocialrevolution
thata mostterrible
One feelsdeeplyconvinced
and EngRussia
news.
This
is
hand.
near
at
and
good
pressiblein Russian

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A RETURN
TO LENIN

457

landarethetwogreatpillarsofthepresentEuropeansystem.
Alltherestis
ofsecondaryimportance,even la belleFranceetla savanteAllemagne.
(MECW,

43,450.)

- although
Fiveyearslater,Engelsaccurately
foresaw
thetimeframe
wasclearlylongerthanhe expected- thatthesocialrevolution
in
on Germany"
Russiawould"haveinevitable
(MECW,
repercussions
45, 103).5Fromthispointto theveryend oftheirlivesbothMarx
in Russiaoveranyother
to developments
and Engelsgavepriority
not
a
fact
butby
country,
virtually
ignored onlybythemarxologists
as well.
theirpartisans
in Parisin March1871first
The working-class
uprising
brought
withyoungRusMarxand Engelsintodirectpoliticalcollaboration
Elisaveta
sianrevolutionaries,
Dmitriyeva
Tomanovskaya,
specifically,
hadbefriended
theprevious
summer.
Marx's
whomtheMarxfamily
abouttheCommuneis one of the
need foraccurateinformation
reasonsshewentto PariswheresheorganizedtheWomen'sUnion
fortheDefenseof Parisas a branchof theIWMAand eventually
emergedas one oftheCommune'sleaders.ThroughherMarxwas
andpractical
advicetotheCommunards
abletoprovidestrategic
inthe
suchas theurgentneedtoforman alliancewiththepeasantry
A
the
said
of
the
Russian
after
Commune,
Engels
youth
provinces.year
and otherswithwhomtheyworked:"Asfaras
likeTomanovskaya
talentand characterare concerned,some of theseare absolutely
Andin anticipation
ofa Lenin:
amongtheverybestin our party."
a
of
character
and
at
the
same
timea
a
have
stoicism,strength
"They
whichare truly
admirable"(MECW,44,396).
graspoftheory
WhatRussianyouthsoughtfromMarxconcernedtheprospects
in Russia.Morespecifically,
wouldRussia
forcapitalist
development
on
the
ofthestill
out
socialist
transformation
basis
be able to carry
in thecountryside
orwouldithavetogo
intactcommunalproperty
of
before
a
doingso? Because
through prolongedphase capitalism
thatRussiawasa workinprogress
he wasreluctant
Marxrecognized
He
drafted
a
number
ofrepliesthat
a
tomake categorical
judgment.
werenevermailedbutwhichrevealedtheextensive
readinghe was
in
In
a
letter
1881
to
Vera
one of
the
on
Zasulich,
doing
question.
ofLaborGroup,thefirst
Russian
oftheEmancipation
thefounders
inGermany
ofcourse,totherevolutionary
thatfollowed
inthe
5 I amreferring,
upheavals
in 1917.
wakeoftheRussianRevolution

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458

SCIENCE & SOCIETY

Marxist
tobe thebasisfor
he saidthatforcommunalproperty
party,
the
toeliminate
socialisttransformation,
"itwouldfirst
be necessary
deleterious
influences
whichareassailingitfromall sides."In other
ofhisletterputit,"tosavetheRussian
words,as one ofthedrafts
is needed"(MECW,24,359).
a Russianrevolution
commune,
more
whenin 1875at Marx'surginghe
was
categorical
Engels
Rewith
Peter
a
RussianBlanquist-Narodnik.
Tkachev,
polemicized
was
that
the
Russian
the
Narodnik
view
peasant "instinctively
jecting
at insurreche warnedagainst"a premature
attempt
revolutionary,"
- since"Russiaundoubtedly
is on
tion"- theBlanquisttendency
it
would
how
theeveofa revolution."
Engelsaccurately
anticipated
unfold,notwhenhe expectedbutthreedecadeslater.
strataofthenationconcenA growing
amongtheenlightened
recognition
andtheillusionthat
isimpending,
tratedinthecapitalthat... a revolution
itwillbe possibleto guidethisrevolution
alonga smoothconstitutional
ofa revoluarecombined,
ofa revolution
channel.Hereall theconditions
tionthat,startedbytheupperclassesofthecapital,perhapsevenbythe
consticarriedfurther,
mustbe rapidly
itself,
beyondthefirst
government
thatwillbe ofthegreatest
tutionalphase,bythepeasants,ofa revolution
forthewholeofEurope.(MECW,24,50.)
importance
Two yearslaterwhen the Russo-Turkish
War broke out, both Marx

Itwasindeed
therevolution.
itwouldprecipitate
andEngelsthought
Warof1904-1905,thatopened
theRusso-Japanese
a conflagration,
in
1917.
the
culminated
that
up
process
In hispolemicwithTkachev,EngelswrotethatgivenRussia's
wascertainly
a revolution
thatbeganwitha conspiracy
justifireality
able.Neveratanytime"inmypoliticalcareer[haveI] declaredthat
condemnedinallcircumstances"
weretobe universally
conspiracies
he
and
MarxpraisedRussianrevolu.6
both
(MECW,24,37) Later,
tionarieslikeVera Zasulichwho eithercarriedout or attempted
individualactsof terroragainstRussianrulers.Whenmembersof
CzarAlexanderII in
Narodnaya
Volya(People'sWill)assassinated
ofhimand,moreimportantly,
Lenin'scritique
6 Engels'polemicwithTkachevanticipated
andconL. NadezhdininWITBDabouttheroleofterror
thatofhislaterfellowtraveler
thatLeninhadreadEngels'polemic;
Itisunlikely
inRussia'scomingrevolution.
spiracy
itin
mentioned
hiscase.SincePlekhanov
hewouldhavecitedittostrengthen
otherwise,
His 1915-1916notebook
wasawareofitsexistence.
OurDifferences
(1974),Leninprobably
forImperialism
(LCW,39,506) revealsthathe readitsometimelater.

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A RETURN TO LENIN

459

1881,MarxtolddaughterJennythattheywere"sterling
chapsthrough
and through,withoutmelodramaticposturing,
simple,matter-of-fact,
heroic.. . . [They]are at pains to teachEurope thattheirmodusoperRussianand historically
inevitablemode of acandi is a specifically
tionwhichno morelendsitselfto moralizing foror against- than
does the earthquakein Chios [Greece, 1881]" (MECW, 46, 83). For
Engels,theywere"our people" whoseactionshad helped to createa
situation"in Russia (MECW, 46, 208). As Marx'scom"revolutionary
mentsuggests,neitherhe nor Engels praised terrorismas a tactic
suitableforall places at all times.But in the specificconditionsin
Russiaitwasjustifiable.
Both also held thatthe social revolutionin Russiawould spread
westward,leading to "radicalchangethroughout
Europe'(MECW, 45,
is ... one ofthefirst
Tsarist
Russia
...
"overthrow
of
In
the
296). fact,
ultimatetriumph"(MECW,24,
conditionsoftheGermanproletariat's
103). To a Germancomradein 1882,Engelsadvisedthattheformashouldonlybe done whenthemoment
tionofthenextinternational
was right:
ofthe
Sucheventsarealreadytaking
shapeinRussiawheretheavant-garde
- waitfor
Youshould- orso wethink
willbe goingintobattle.
revolution
will
andthenthemoment
on Germany,
thisanditsinevitable
repercussions
forofan officiai,
and theestablishment
alsohavecomefora bigmanifesto
no longerbe a propagandaassociawhichcan,however,
malInternational,
foraction.(MECW,46, 198.)
an association
tionbutsimply
This was mostpropheticsince itwas indeed the RussianRevolution
in 1917 thatgave birthwithintwoyearsto the Communistor Third
whichproudlyproclaimeditsadherence to the Marx
International,
program.
In 1882 Marxand Engels publicizedforthefirsttimetheirview
of Russia'sunique role. In the "Preface"to the second Russianedition of the Communist
theywrote:"Russiaformsthe vanManifesto,
in
action
of
Europe." As forthe futureof the
guard revolutionary
in
Russia
commune
theyprovidedtheirclearestansweryet:
peasant
"IftheRussianRevolutionbecomes thesignalfora proletarianrevolutionin theWest,so thatthetwocomplementeach other,thepresent
Russiancommon ownershipof land mayserveas the startingpoint
forcommunistdevelopment"(MECW, 24, 426) . To the end of his

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460

SCIENCE ? SOCIETY

to
life,only15monthsaway,Marxcontinuedtodevotehisattention
thepeasantquestionin Russia- theverytopicwithwhichLenin
wouldbeginhisrevolutionary
studies.
The Russianfront,
morethananyother,is whatfueledMarx's
hiscore,to theveryend.Threemonthsbefore
revolutionary
spirit,
hisdeathhe sharedwithhisdaughter
Laurahisjoyaboutthepopuin
of
his
ideas
Russia:
"Nowhere
larity
mysuccessis to me moredeI damagea power,which
it
me
the
that
satisfaction
lightful; gives
besidesEngland,is thetruebulwark
oftheold society"
(MECW,46,
in St.Petersburg
took
399). Upon hearingofMarx'sdeathstudents
a
a
wreath
collection
which
sent
to
to
have
up
they
Engels
placedon
Rusabout
hisgrave- a smallbutnotinsignificant
that
his
joy
sign
siawasnotunwarranted.
more
Marxby12years,Engelscouldconcretize
Havingoutlived
theprogramand politicshe sharedwithhislate comradeon the
Russianquestion.He had close contactwiththeexiles,especially
and wasable to
Zasulich,and to a lesserextentGeorgiPlekhanov,
IfEngels,like
the
different
between
distinguish
clearly
generations.
thatwasno
had
once
been
to
the
Narodnik
Marx,
perspective,
open
if
few
months
before
the
at
least
not
before
a
1895,
longer case,
by
exilepoliticsand its
hisdeath(MECW,50,450). Whilehe followed
tointervene,
internal
declinedrequests
debates,he consciously
given
he prohisbroaderparty
commitments.
On one occasion,however,
in manywaysLeninand
videdadviceto Zasulich,whichanticipated
theneed foropen debatewithintheRussian
WITBD,specifically
outintotheopen,intothe
"To inveiglehisadversaries
movement.
in
view
ofthepublic,wasone of
attack
them
full
of
and
to
light day,
used ployswhenconmost
Marx'smostpowerful
and
frequently
fronted
withclandestine
(MECW,48,484).
intrigue"
oftheruralcommune,
of
On theprogrammatic
question thefuture
in
recentdevelopment,
1894.
Russia's
his
final
made
judgment
Engels
andthe"prolewasdecidedly
as heandMarxhadsuspected,
capitalist,
and thedecayof
ofthepeasantry
ofa largeproportion
tarianization
at
an
ever
commune
theoldcommunistic
pace."
quickening
proceeds
fora "point
remained
communes
Whether
enoughofthetraditional
forcommunistic
ofdeparture
Engelscouldnotsay.
development,"
istobe preserved,
ofthiscommune
ifa remnant
Butthismuchiscertain:
This
inRussia.
revolution
isthefalloftsarist
thefirst
condition
despotism

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A RETURNTO LENIN

461

willnot onlytearthe greatmassof the nation,the peasants,awayfromthe


isolationof theirvillages. . . and lead themout onto the greatstage ... it
willalso givethelabormovementoftheWestfreshimpetusand createnew,
betterconditionsin whichto carryon the struggle,thushasteningthevicwithoutwhichpresent-day
Russia
toryofthemodernindustrialproletariat,
whetherproceedingfromthe
can neverachievea socialisttransformation,
communeor fromcapitalism.(MECW, 27, 433.)
Thus, in no uncertain terms,and contraryto all of the futureStalinist
distortionsof Marx's and Engels' views,Russia could "never achieve
a socialist transformation"withoutthe overthrowof the bourgeoisie
in Western Europe byitsown proletariat.Russia, furthermore,would
not only be the "impetus" for the socialist revolution in the West, as
Marx and Engels had been saying for two decades, but its own revolution was inextricablylinked to that outcome. This forecast would
be profoundly and tragicallyconfirmed by subsequent history.
Missing in Engels' scenario is Russia's proletariat.This is because
it would not be until a year after his death that the upheaval that
launched the political career of Lenin and his generation occurred,
the great textileworkers'strikein St. Petersburgof 1896, the firstmass
industrialstrikein Russia. Had he lived long enough, Engels no doubt
would have incorporated the worker-peasant alliance into his equation,just as he and his partner had done for other settingssuch as
Germany and France.7 It would fall to Lenin, drawing on that rich
heritage, to make the programmatic adjustment.
This brief overviewreveals in no uncertain terms that Marx and
Engels, contrary,again, to the standard story,were as politicallyand
programmaticallyat home in the "eastern borders of European civilization" as theywere in its center. Because their arithmetic,not their
algebra,was incorrectabout the timingof the social revolutionin Russia
theywould have only been surprised that it did not come sooner.
What the Young Lenin Knew about Marx and Engels . . .

Among the developmentsin Russia thatEngels paid attention


to was the devastatingdroughtand faminethatwreakedhavoc on
see myMarxand
dimensionto Marx'sand Engels'politics,
7 On thisunder-appreciated
inRussia
2000).Engelsdidforeseein 1891thata successful
(Nimtz,
peasantrevolt
Engels
inurbancenters"
wherethe"emergent
insurrection
proletariat"
dependedon "successful
lived(MECW,49,243).

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462

SCIENCE f SOCIETY

in 1891-92.Although
thecountry
he couldnothaveknowntheparthat
ticulars
abouthowitwouldunfold,Engelscorrectly
recognized
therewouldlikelybe politicalrepercussions
(MECW,49, 375). Acremainsarguably
to
The
Lenin
Leon
whose
Young
cording
Trotsky,
and
thebestsourceon Lenin'spre-St.
Petersburg
years,thedrought
with
the
crisis
famine
inhispolitical
weredecisive
trajectory.
Witnessing
hisowneyes,itsteeledhiminhisbeliefthatonlya radicalreordering
thatcame
ofRussian
couldprevent
thekindofsocialdevastation
society
inthewakeofanapparent
whatEngels
natural
phenomenon exactly
had also concluded(Trotsky,
1972,esp.ch. 13).
in understanding
howand whattheyoung
Ofvitalimportance
LeninknewaboutMarxandEngelswerehisextraordinary
language
skills- longin placebeforethe1891-92famine.Mainlyat theenofhismother,ofGermanorigin,he and hissiblings
couragement
werefluentreadersfroma fairly
earlyage ofnotonlyGermanbut
His
alsoFrenchandEnglish. Germanskillsmadeitpossibleforhim
to readDas Kapitalat age 18,in 1888.
It wasin Samara,in theVolgaregionand severely
impactedby
thefamine,
wherehe movedin 1889,thatLeninqualitatively
deepA yearlater,
ofMarx'spoliticsand analysis.
ened hisunderstanding
circlethere
intoRussianforusebya study
he translated
theManifesto
thathe had contactwith(LCW,1,540). The translation
process,as
of
a
in
it
has
who
knows,requires degree compreanyone
engaged
hensionofa textmuchmoreadvancedthanformerereading.Durin the
himself
afterthefaminehe immersed
ingand immediately
volume
did
I
II
not
and
of
of
volumes
complete
Capital(Engels
study
III until18948).In Trotsky's
opinion,"Marxhas neverhad a better
nora moreattenor moregrateful,
reader,one morepenetrating
The Samaraperiod,owingtohis
orcapablestudent."
tive,congenial,
iswhen,Trotsky
intensestudy,
1891-1892,
argues,Lenin
specifically
time.Astowhenhe became
forthefirst
becamea consciousMarxist
withRussianSocialDemocracy,
familiar
thathehadstudied
tooktogether
Lenintold[Karl]Radekona walkthey
hegotholdofany
before
butalsoEngels'Anti-Dhring
notonlyDasKapital
triedtogeta copyas soonas itwasavailable(LCW,37,68). Interestingly,
8 Leninanxiously
NikolarDanielson,livingin St.Petersburg,
theRussianNarodnik
appearsto havebeen
thefirst
contacttoreceivefromEngelsthepublisher's
galleys(MECW,50,280) party
thathe and Marxlentto theRussianmovement.
oftheimportance
anotherindication

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A RETURN
TO LENIN

463

ofLaborGroup.. . . Hisacquaintance
oftheEmancipation
with
publications
of
theworks Plekhanov,
without
whichone couldnothavearrived
atSocial
musthavetakenplacein 1891.
Democratic
positions,
In a partyquestionnairein 1921 Lenin wrotethathis revolutionary
activitiesbegan in Samara in 1892-93.
to notethatLenin,in 1904,said thatpriorto Marx
Itis instructive
who "had a major,overpowering
and Engels,it was Chernyshevsky
influenceon me" (Pomper, 1990, 32-33). As alreadynoted, Marx
s politicaleconomywritings,
thoughtveryhighlyof Chernyshevsky'
debt to LudwigFeuerbachand
whichlike Capitalowed a significant
theyoungHegelians.Marx mighthave agreed,therefore,
thatreadbe
a
to
would
for
a
ing Chernyshevsky
good place begin
youngRussianwantingto understandhis analysis.9
It is one thingto read Capitaland anotherto applyit.This isjust
whatLeninbegandoingat theend ofhisSamaraperiod- 1889-1893
- thatis,usingMarx'sanalysis
tounderstand
Russia'sreality,
particularly
and thepenetration
ofcapitalist
relationsin the
thepeasantry
property
- exactlythequestionthatoccupied Marxat theend of
countryside
Lenin reached
hislife.EmployingCapitalin hisfirst
analytical
writing,
same
conclusion
that
as
noted
would a
the
above,
Engels,
essentially
of the countryinto a
fewmonthslaterin 1894: "the transformation
capitalistindustrialnation. . . proceedsat an everquickeningpace."
- testifies
to howwell
To reachsimilarconclusions- independently
Lenin had graduatedfromapprenticeshipto fullmasteryof Marx's
method.
A close readingofLenin's earlywritings
and correspondence,at
revealsthe
least thosecompiledby the editorsof his Collected
Works,
Marx
he
was
familiar
with
the
of
and
to
which
writings
Engels.
degree
volumesI and II, theManifesto,
and Anti-Dhring,
In additionto Capital,
he eitherread,tooknoteson and/or citedMarx'sand Engels' TheHoly
ofPhilosophy,
ofLaw,
CritiqueofHegels9Philosophy
Family;Marx's Poverty

hiscorrespondencewithArnoldRuge10;Engels' Condition
oftheWork-

9 Lih,2006,377-84,correctly
disputesthefrequentchargethatLeninnevergotover
to showhowMarxhimself
found
theNarodnikinfluencebutmissesan opportunity
attractive.
Chernyshevsky
withtheMarx-Ruge
10 Lenin'searlyfamiliarity
1842-1843,is ofutmost
correspondence,
Theseletters,
untiltoday,
revealtheprocessbywhichMarx
significance.
underappreciated
a necessary
brokewiththeYoungHegelians,
ThatLenin
stepon hisroadtocommunism.
wasabletounearth
themandsee theirsignificance
speaksvolumesabouthisprescience.

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464

SCIENCE & SOCIETY

TheHousing Quesing Class in England,Socialism:Utopianand Scientific,


and
tion,TheRole ofForcein History,OriginoftheFamily,PrivateProperty

theState.In hisfirst
triptoWestern
EuropefromMayto September
in Zurich,
1895he spenta considerable
amountoftimein libraries
Geneva,Parisand Berlinwhichonlydeepenedhis knowledgeof
his
Marx'sand Engels'writings.11
Written
afterhisreturn,
shortly
"Frederick
testifies
to
this
what
article,
and,particularly, they
Engels,"
in Ruswroteaboutthecourseand tasksofthecomingrevolution
sia.12Bythetimehe wroteWITBD in 1902 Leninwasevenmore
conversant
withMarxand Engels;writings
suchas Marx'sEighteenth
Brumaire
wouldbe addedtohisextensive
list.
Whatis unexpected,ifone subscribesto Lars Lih's "Russian
isthepaucity
Erfurtian"
ofreferences
toKautsky
thesis,
(as wellas to
hisopening
Plekanov).In whatmightbe calledLenin'smanifesto,
salvo, Whatthe 'FriendsofthePeople"Are and How TheyFighttheSocial

written
in 1894andabout200pages- slightly
Democrats,
longerthan
WITBD he citesKautsky
onlyonce in defenseofSocialDemocthe
Narodniks.
on theotherhand,iscited41 times
Marx,
racyagainst
and Engelson 14 occasions.His tripto WesternEurope- made
- whichno doubtallowed
afterwriting
'Friends
shortly
ofthePeople"
himto readmanyGermanpartytextsforthefirst
time,did notsigIn
all
of
alter
this
ratio.
Lenin's
WITBD,
writings
through
nificantly
59
cited
151
and
is
cited
while
Marx
is
42
times,
Engels times.
Kautsky
ofWITBDand,in particular,
'Friends99
thecorearguments
previews
It is the
to fightforpoliticaldemocracy.
theneed forcommunists
for
is
the
Part
that
Four,
clearly authority Lenin's
Manifesto,
specifically
he makes
theGermanparty
ever
and
without
mentioning
argument,
thelabelSocialDemocracy evidencefor
thecase foremploying
WhileLenin
he had masteredMarxand Engels.13
howthoroughly
to
he
an
as
for
hadtremendous
respect Kautsky authority, preferred
11 Whilein Parishe "doessomeresearchon theParisCommune"(Weber,1980,8).
theimportance
WITBDas regards
12 LCW,2, 15-27.Thefinalparagraphs
clearly
anticipate
ofpoliticaldemocracy.
to thatofMarx'sand
13 The mastheadofthefirst
issueofIskrabearsa striking
similarity
of
in theGermanRevolutions
thepapertheyemployed
Zeitung,
Engels'NeueRheinische
Anothercoreidea is thefusion
was"Organof theDemocracy."
1848-1849.Itssubtitle
Here too Lenin
and theadvancedranksof theproletariat.
betweensocialists/Marxists
ofGermanSocialDemocor theexperience
drawson MarxandEngelsand notKautsky
racy,as Lihargues.

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A RETURN TO LENIN

465

- whichgavehim,I argue,
tothesourcesofhisauthority
go directly
fortheeventualdivorce.14
theconfidence
. . . And WhatHe KnewabouttheGerman
Party
tomakehiscaseforLeninas the
The evidencethatLihemploys
is accuratebutit ignoresotherevidencethat
"RussianErfurtian"
leaderhada morerealistic
orsober
Bolshevik
thatthefuture
suggests
as he waswriting
WITBD.
viewofGermanSocialDemocracy
oftheyoungLenin
absentinLih'saccountisthereaction
Notably
inthe
andrevisionism
issueofEdwardBernstein
totheall-important
ofMarxbeganto
criticisms
WhenBernstein's
Germanpartyitself.
Lenin
in
Narodnik
a
circles,
respondedas quicklyas
get hearing
able to getaholdof
he could.In exilein Siberiahe waseventually
itforopportunism
and
denounced
Socialism
Problems
Bernstein's
of
first
(LCW,37,278,281).Although
Kautsky's
publicattackon Bernin
1898,preceded
stein,at theparty's
meeting September
Stuttgart
thatLenin
there
to
a
is
about
Lenin'scritique
nothing suggest
by
year,
of
the
German
or
the
hear
what
waitedto
party
leadership
Kautsky
beforelaunchinghisownattack.Leninrecognizedthatit
thought
wasnotenoughtojustcritiquetheRussianecho- thesolefocusof
Lih- butratherthesourceofthatecho.Again,hisownthorough
oftheGermanparty,
gavehim
graspofMarx,acquiredindependently
to do so.
theconfidence
abouthiscritiqueis thatLeninreachedconMostnoteworthy
clusionssimilarto thosethatEngelshad reached,at leastby1892,
- a German
Britofthereformist
version
aboutBernstein's
trajectory
ishFabianism(MECW,49,502-3;50,468). ThatLeninand hiswife
hadjust translated
Sidneyand BeatriceWebb'sTheHisKrupskaya
Fabian
a
Trade
text,no doubtexplainswhyhe
Unionism,major
of
tory
ofEngelsis
he
did
so independently
couldsee theparallels.Butthat
oftheMarx-Engels
evidence,once again,ofhismastery
program.
istestimony
tohisindependence
itself
Also,thathe tooktheinitiative
issueisthat
oftheBernstein
Thesignificance
fromtheGermanparty.
the
German
that
it clearlysignaledto Lenin
partywasthe
though
- citedjust41 timesthrough
canbe madewithregardtoPlekhanov
14 Thesameargument
WITBD- withwhomLenintoowouldsoonbreak.

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466

SCIENCE f SOCIETY

forEuropeanSocialDemocracy
historie
itwasnotwithout
flagship
itsfaults,
atleastin thepersonofone ofitsmostrespected
leaders.15
As he waswriting
to reada
WITBDLeninhad theopportunity
his
in
of
wrote
1891
the
German
critiqueEngels
party,
specifically,
criticisms
ofa draftoftheErfurt
written
byAugustBebel
Program
in
and WilhelmLiebknecht.
timebyKautsky
Publishedforthefirst
Neue
theGermanparty's
theoretical
he
Die
which
Zeit,
edited,
organ
in the1901-1902issue,Leninthought
thathe
itofsuchimportance
statement
sentittoPlekhanov,
on a programmatic
whowasworking
"I think
forthenewly
foundedIskraorganization,
withthiscomment:
it
for
for
will
find
of
some
interest
work,
i.e.,
you
your
drawing
up the
in
draft
the
draft
was
(LCW,34,87). Though
Engels'opinprogram"
known
iona markedimprovement
overtheprevious
party
program,
in
as theGothaProgram,
weaknesses
it containedsomeimportant
inhisview,the"oprelationtothepoliticaldemands.Thisreflected,
whichis gaininggroundin a largesectionoftheSocial
portunism
Democratic
press."
tomake
Ofutmost
concerntoEngelswasthefailureofthedraft
clearthecentralpoliticaldemandof GermanSocial Democracy,
formofgovernment.
viaan indivisible
political
democracy
republican
classcan
"Ifone thingis certainitis thatourpartyand theworking
Thisis
to
the
form
of
a
democratic
come
under
republic.
only
power
Not
oftheproletariat."16
eventhespecific
formforthedictatorship
view
in
demand
was
forth
the
democratic
Engels'
republican
putting
"seminottorileGermany's
an attempt
oftheparty's
totry
leadership
tactic
was
the
order."
And
related
to
this
absolutist
growing
political
- what
elections
illusionofcomingtopowerbylegalmeansthrough
Road to SocialismThesis
wouldlaterbe dubbedtheParliamentary
mishe argued,"proveshowtotally
ofGermany,
(PRST).The reality
butalso
takenis thebeliefthata republic,and notonlya republic,
in a cosy,peacefulway."Such
communist
canbe established
society,
a tactic"maybe 'honestly'
but
meant, it is and remainsopportunofall!"
isperhapsthemostdangerous
ism,and'honest'opportunism
thattheseissueshad
(MECW,27,226-28). Engelswasalsoconcerned
hisreference
inWITBD,specifically,
as indicatedin hisfirst
footnote
15 Leninrecognizes,
in theparty.
had a following
thatBernstein
to the"German
Bernsteinians,"
ofthe
forthosewhoassumethatthedictatorship
16 Engels'pointisonlyincomprehensible
To understand
areincompatible.
andpolitical
whythiswasnottrue
democracy
proletariat
forMarxand Engels,see Draper,1986.

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A RETURN TO LENIN

467

a pointhe harpedon
notbeen adequatelydiscussedin theparty,
in
his
critique.
repeatedly
Ifforlegalpurposesthedemandfora democratic
republiccould
forEngels
in
more
evidence
stated
the
notbe explicitly
program
oftheregime he offered
an
character
aboutthe"semi-absolutist"

alternativeformulation:"theconcentration
ofall politicalpowerin the
italics
in original). In thefinal
handsofthepeoples
(ibid.,
representatives'

hissuggestion
draft
appearedinthesecondofthe
adoptedatErfurt,
to be electedbythepeople;to be retendemandsas: "Authorities
bound"
and
(Steenson,1991,299). Engels,in general,
sponsible
butcontinuedto be
had been successful
feltthathisintervention
WhenBebelin 1894complained
direction.
soberabouttheparty's
he observed:
that"is
is goingbourgeois,"
"withreasonthattheparty
ofall extremepartieswhenthetimeapproachesfor
themisfortune
themtobecomepossible"(Engelsand Lafargue,
1960,344). He rethattherewasstilltimeto halttheslidetoward
mainedoptimistic
In sixmonthshe wouldno longerbe aroundtoassistin
reformism.
thatstruggle.
ofthecritiqueis thatforthefirsttimeLenin
The importance
aboutthedirectionofGerwasable to learnofEngels'misgivings
thatwouldlater
tendencies
theopportunist
manSocialDemocracy,
Lih
not
address
thisfact
does
intoa cancer.17
metastasize
Though
I
what
he
knew
that
with
abouthis"Russian
Erfurtian,"
argue it,along
aboutBernstein,
gaveLenina moresoberand accuratereadingof
thistendency
with
The factthatLeninwitnessed
theGermanparty.18
GermanSocialDemocracy's
hisowneyes- specifically,
leadingdaily,
tendencies- could
withRussianreformist
Vorwrts,
maneuvering
ofEngels'concerns(fordetails,
hisawareness
onlyhavereinforced
see Lih,2006,296-8). In theopeningpagesofWITBD,he suggested
toopportunism
la Bernstein
infactthattheGermanparty's
response
Andin a laterchapterwhichcallsforemulawaslessthanresolute.
he recognizes,
without
the
tionoftheGermancomrades
elaboration,
"weakaspects"oftheparty(LCW,5, 439).
wasstill
decidedtopublishEngels'critique.
17 ThisraisesthequestionwhyKautsky
Kautsky
ofEngels'critique
oforthodoxy
and no doubtsawthepublication
a staunchsupporter
madeit
as ammunition
wing.Also,thathe wasn'tan authorofthedraft
againsttheright
easierto makeitpublic.
certainly
thatbegan,I argue,withthatfateful
and
18 1wouldalsoincludeLenin'sbreakwithPlekhanov
thatLeninhadwithhimin Genevain 1900;see "Howthe'Spark'was
revealing
meeting
withthisonceesteemed
heroprepared
(LCW,4,333-49).Breaking
Nearly
Extinguished"
heroesofGermanSocialDemocracy.
withformer
himtodo thesamewhennecessary

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468

SCIENCE f SOCIETY

ThatitwasEngelswhochastisedtheparty's
leadershipfornot
himself
wasso inon
that
Lenin
the
beingprincipled
veryquestion
forpolitical
sistent
tofight
on,thatis,theneedforSocialDemocrats
in nearabsolutist
Russia,could onlyhaveadded to his
democracy
in hisreadingofMarxand Engelsvis--vis
thatofleadconfidence
If
had
German
Social
Democrats.
the
German
ing
party once been
hisinspiration,
as Lih claims,thatwasless thecase afterhe read
afterreadthatLenin,shortly
Engels'critique.Itis notcoincidental
to the Communist
referred
it to Plekhanov,
ingand recommending
"the
of
international
(LCW,
Social-Democracy"
Manifestoes 'Gospel'
terms:
5,340). Itwasthere,inPartFour,spelledoutinunambiguous
forpoliticaldemocracy
theimmediate
taskforcommunists
to fight
in settings
suchas Germany
and Russia.In otherwords,ratherthan
he now
lookto anyparticular
textfromGermanSocialDemocracy,
recommended
theoriginalsource.
As alreadynoted,ofimportance
forLih's "RussianErfurtian"
mostpopularwork,
in 1894ofKautsky's
thesisis Lenin'stranslation
A comparisonof Engels' position
TheClassStruggle
(Erfurt
Program).

secon howtheworking
classtakespoliticalpowerwiththerelevant
not-too-subtle
reveals
a
in
tion ClassStruggle,
"ThePoliticalStruggle,"
of
is on theutilization
difference.
Whereastheemphasisin Kautsky
this
the
to
"burst
"smash"
sees
the
need
to
state,
parliament,
Engels
intendeditor not,itis easyto
old shellbyforce."Whether
Kautsky
servedtomakethePRSTgossee whyhisverypopularcommentary
pelforSocialDemocracy.
Engelsonlyhadtime- owingtotheneed
to completeVolumeIV of Capital- to read"thefirst16 pages"of
"I cannotgivean opinionofthewaytherest,
Kautsky's
manuscript.
themajorpart,isarranged"(MECW,49,367). Thus,wedon'tknow,
on the
whathe thoughtof Kautsky's
commentary
unfortunately,
that
Lenin
show
would
Erfurt
however,
history,
Program.
Subsequent
classtakingstatepower
fortheworking
foundEngels'prescription
- "whatis to be done" - farmoreattractive
thanwhatKautsky
offered.
did notknowis thatEngels'critiquewas
WhatLeninprobably
hadscoldedtheGermanparty's
notthefirst
timehe andhispartner
textsin
In one ofthemostimportant
leadershipforopportunism.
theMarx-Engels
arsenal,whichhas cometo be called TheCircular
theediLetter
of1879,thetwoexcoriatedtheleadershipforputting
the
hands
into
Sozialdemokrat
its
of
torialresponsibilities newspaper

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A RETURN TO LENIN

469

to theparty
whosepoliticswereantithetical
ofthreerecentrecruits
One
of
to a revolutionary
perspective. ofthethree,in anticipation
Bernstein.
Because
was
the
Edward
hissubsequent
young
trajectory,
to breakwiththeGermanpartyover
Marxand Engelsthreatened
theleadership,
includoftheeditorialcommittee,
thecomposition
to
meet
with
Marx
and
traveled
to
London
Bernstein,
Engelsto
ing
ofeveryone.19
tothemutualsatisfaction
Beresolvetheirdifferences,
in 1931,when
cause TheCircularaisonlymadepublicin itsentirety
ofStalintoexposeGermanSocialDemocracy's
itwasin theinterest
withit- atleast
thatLeninwasfamiliar
reformist
roots,itisunlikely
thatLeninknewabout
WITBD.Neitherisitlikely
notbeforewriting
- "a mediocrity,
narrowin outlook,
Marx'slowopinionofKautsky
- fromtheir
ofthephilistine
tribe"
... bynaturea member
overwise
in 1881(MECW,46,82). Nothingin thetworemainfirst
encounter
thathe changedhisopinion.Nor,
of
Marx's
lifesuggests
ingyears
itwasBebelfor
didLeninknow,thatratherthanKautsky
probably,
in
the
German
Bebel's
whomEngelshadthegreatest
party.20
respect
attractive
instincts
were
roots
and
particularly
political
working-class
to Engels."I nevermakeup mymindaboutanypointrelatingto
beforehavingreadBebel'sviewson thesubject"
tactics
Germanparty
Marx
andEngelsbothhada degreeofskepticism
48,
475).
(MECW,
wastheirleadin thepartyofwhomKautsky
abouttheintellectuals
of
an
opinionthat
inglight(forcontextsee Pierson,1993).Typical
he madeon a seriesofarticles
isa comment
Engelshadofhiswriting
in
French
Revolution.
1889
on
the
wrote
Engels,everthe
Kautsky
him:
admonished
dialectician,
yougeneralizefartoo
"Altogether
muchand thisoftenmakesyouabsolutewheretheutmostrelativity
is calledfor"(MECW,48,267).
themainreasonLenindidnotknowaboutMarx'sand
Probably
- again,certainly
on theGermanparty
real
views
leadership
Engels'
on itspartto
WITBD is theconsciouseffort
at thetimeofwriting
becausetheirletconcealmuchofwhatthetwohadwritten.
Exactly
incriticism,
evenBebel,whoalmostsinguterswereoftenunsparing
feltcompelledtogo alongwiththiscensure
larlyescapedtheirwrath,
19 Fordetailson thisrow,see myMarxandEngels,
2000,255-59.
toward
theend
20 Therewerethreeissuesthatno doubtloweredEngels'esteemforKautsky
VolumeIV ofCapital,
thatis,Theoon completing
footdragging
ofhislife:one,Kautsky's
hisfailure
ofhisformer
wifeLouise;and,lastly,
hisshabbytreatment
riesofSurplus
Value,
ofsocialism.
and editinga multi-volume
to letEngelsknowthathe waswriting
history

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470

SCIENCE f SOCIETY

inordertomaintain
withpilloried
comrades.
campaign
goodrelations
The first
in
as
1913
of
what
was
advertised
their
publication
complete
wasin facta massive
bowdlerization
largely
correspondence
project,
atthehandsofBernstein's
intheannalsoftheMarxthefirst
editing,
istmovement
(see Morgan,1965,AppendixIII, fordetails).
hisnext
Twoyears
after
theappearance
ofWITBDLeninpublished
TwoStepsBackward,
his accountof the
majorwork,OneStepForward,

thatcamein thewakeofitssecondcongress
splitintheRussianparty
in1903.He quickly
oftheGerman
discovered
thattheleadership
party,
in
the
Mensheviks.
Itwas
sided
with
his
Kautsky particular,
opponents,
who
editor
of
Neue
the
German
Zt,
theoreticaljournal,
Kautsky,
party's
of
Rosa
but
tendentious
famous
published
Luxemburg's
very
critique
Lenin'sdefenseoftheBolsheviks.
He refused,
to publish
however,
Lenin'sresponse.
The diatribes
ofTrotsky,
an opponentofLeninat
thetime,werealsowelcomedin thepagesofKautsky
'sjournal.
If itwasn'tclearearlier,certainly
Lenin
knewthata
1907
by
wasunderwayinGermanSocialDemocracy.
qualitative
degeneration
forhimthantheparty's
was
more
Nothing
revealing
postureon the
the
Socialist
Internacolonialquestion.AttheStuttgart
of
congress
the
tional(theSecondInternational)
of
thatyeara majority
party's
lead
a
resolution
Bernstein,
eventually
by
delegates,
supported
- thatsaid:"TheCongress
andfor
overturned
doesnotinprinciple
alltimerejectallcolonialpolicy,
under
a
socialist
which,
regime,
may
of thedelegates,
havea civilizing
effect."
Lenin,likethemajority
as he noted,fromcountrieswithoutcolonialpossessions,
mainly,
In hiswidely
distributed
article
denounced"socialist
colonialpolicy."
and sad feaon thecongressas a whole,he wrote:"Theremarkable
which
turein thisconnectionwasthatGermanSocial-Democracy,
in
the
hitherto
hadalways
Marxism,
standpoint
upheld revolutionary
stand."21
or tookan opportunist
provedto be unstable,
The fullbreakwiththeGermanpartycamewiththe"Gunsof
delegation- as
August"in 1914.The decisionbyitsparliamentary
wellas thoseofotherSocialDemocratic
partiesinEurope- tovote
norms
Marxist
ofrevolutionary
tofundWorldWarI,inclearviolation
of
sense
To
make
the
divorce.
andprioragreements,
this,
precipitated
fordetails(LCW,13,75-93).In his1898book
21 See Lenin'stwoarticleson thecongress
theCzar'scolobetween
TheDevelopment
inRussia,
Leninnotedthesimilarity
ofCapitalism
wasdoinginAfrica(LCW,3,258n).
withwhatGermany
nizationofthe"borderregions"
see Iliffe,1969,chapter3 and
On Germany
in Africaand GermanSocialDemocracy,
passim.

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A RETURN TO LENIN

471

thatis,whataccountedforthewarand whydid thepartythathad


Lenindecidedtogo backnottoMarx
onceinspiredhimcapitulate,
Ifhe hadonce,
totheirmethodological
andEngelsbutrather
origins.
German
been
inrelation
toKautsky
andthe
party, compelledtoturn
Marxand Engels,forthis
to thesourceoftheirideasand program,
the
ofGermanSocial
how
to
critical
explain degeneration
question
two
after
the
outbreak
Lenin
devoted
ofthewar
years
Democracy
Bothliterthatis,Hegel.22
ofthesourceoftheirmethod,
tothestudy
the
of
the
revolution
combined
with
when
turns,
laboratory
living
ary
- whatGermany
lackedbefore1917- arecrucialinunderstanding
theoretical
andprogrammatic
contriwhyLenincouldmakeoriginal
butionsto Marx'sand Engels'project,
whyhe wasand continuesto
be at itscenter.
Conclusion
toLenin"is,again,welcomenews.Butinso doingcare
A "return
to
errors- theattempt
mustbe takento avoidtwocounterpoised
divorceLeninfromMarxand Engels,as theeditorsoftheLeninReofLeninto
loadedcollectionarewontto do, and thesubordination
as LarsLih does.Whilemakinga conGermanSocialDemocracy,
wasfirmly
casethatLenin'sWITBD,atthetimeofitswriting,
vincing
Lihbendstheproverbial
stick
inEuropeanSocialDemocracy,
situated
debatewithinthatcurrent
toofar.Whathe ignoresis theincipient
Had he been,perhaps,
ofSocialDemocracy.
overtheverydefinition
on makinga caseforhisthesishe mighthavenoa bitlessinsistent
on theworksofMarxand
ticedhowtheyoungLenindrewdirectly
and politics,
and noton
Engelsin ordertograsptheirmethodology
of
its
two
founders.
thoseoftheGermanparty's
Precisely
interpreters
he wasable to anbecauseLeninwasso wellrootedin theirworks,
whattheyhad seen- theincreaslearnaboutand confirm
ticipate,
theGermanparty.
Ratherthanwage
within
tendencies
reformist
ingly
as Marxand Engelshad adforpoliticaldemocracy
a resolutefight
inGermany
SocialDemocrats
were
vocatedattheendoftheManifesto,
as
had
once
siren
of
enticedbythe
song possibilityEngels
increasingly
setthestageforthelaterand official
warnedagainst.Thistendency
splitin SocialDemocracy.
22 See Anderson,
1995,forthemostdetailedlookin printso farat thisquestion.

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472

SCIENCE f SOCIETY

- after
In 1874Engelswrote:"I thinkthenextInternational
Marx'swritings
havebeen atworkforsomeyears willbe directly
Communist
ourprinciples"
andwillopenlyproclaim
(MECW,45,42).
thealgebra
if
the
arithmetic
didn't
correct,
Again, Engels
quiteget
the
wouldbe realizedthrough
wasnonetheless
elegant.Hisforecast
anRussianrevolution,
an upheavalhe and hispartnerconfidently
one
was
the
that
overthrow
And
to
the
success
of
critical
ticipated.
wrote:"Marxhasneverhad
so accurately
personaboutwhomTrotsky
nora more
ormoregrateful,
a betterreader,one morepenetrating
student."
or
attentive,
congenial, capable
August H. Nimtz
Department
ofPoliticalScience
University
ofMinnesota
MN 55455
Minneapolis,
edu
animtz@umn.
REFERENCES
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Marxism:
Anderson,Kevin.1995.Lenin,Hegel,and Western
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A RETURN TO LENIN

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All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions