LE CAPITALISME SAUVAGE
See: CAPITALISME SAUVAGE
As should be quite obvious, leadership means getting people to do things, and specifically the things which the leaders see the need to be done.
There are many leadership methods, a few of which are laudable and many others of which are quite the opposite, including even threats of prison, beatings or death. Here are some of the major categories:
• Direct force (physical compulsory methods). Through their political and government power over people, many “leaders” in class society can force people to do what they want them to do. For example, government leaders often raise armies through a compulsory draft, and the threat of prison for those who refuse induction. We put “leaders” in scare-quotes here because the popular connotation of leadership is that it does not involve physical force, but merely persuasion. However, much actual political leadership does in fact have the threat of physical force hidden behind it. And American leaders such as presidents, Congress and the judicial system do in fact lead the nation in large part through at least implicit threats of direct force on the people.
• Economic compulsion. Besides threats of prison or bodily harm, compulsive methods include the threats of economic penalties (fines, taxes, economic deprivation, etc.) to force people to act in certain ways. Why do working-class people under capitalism try to get jobs and spend most of their days working at these jobs no matter how onerous and unpleasant they may be? It is because the capitalist class has economic power over the working class; if they wish to survive and prosper to some small degree the workers have no other choice. Thus economic compulsion often also has the threat of bodily harm—in the form of starvation or at least misery—behind it. Many forms of economic compulsion, such as the requirement that wage-earners pay taxes, have the open threat of direct force behind them (i.e., prison).
• Ideological persuasion. All governments and social classes prefer to lead on the basis of ideological persuasion. However, if the class interests of the rulers is opposed to the class interests of the ruled—even if only opposed to their perceived class interests—then there are severe limits to the degree in which “leadership” can occur through mere persuasion. Persuasion alone even has its limits when the leaders truly represent the actual class interests of those ruled, because—as is well known—people are not always fully aware of their own class interests. Thus while ideological persuasion is indeed an important aspect of proletarian leadership, it cannot be the whole story. People must also have the ability to learn through their own experiences in struggle. (See the “From the masses, to the masses” method below.)
• Personal or institutional authority of the leader(s). People can often be led because they trust and respect their leaders and/or the institutions they represent (governments, parties, individuals). This is actually another form of ideological persuasion and leadership. For reasons of nationalism or tribalism people can often support the existing political leadership, even if they had no real say in determining it, and even if it goes against their own interests. While it is true that some leaders, parties and even nations may have legitimately won that respect and authority, this is certainly not the case with regard to bourgeois governments and parties. Moreover, even revolutionary proletarian parties and their leaders should be quite cautious about relying too much on the respect and authority they have won. One serious danger here is to abuse this trust and respect through commandism. And, in general, we do not want to inadvertently train the masses to follow the leadership of either individuals or any party without seriously thinking about the line and gaining at least some initial conscious understanding of why it is correct. After all, even the best leaders can die and be replaced by revisionists; and even the best revolutionary parties can end up being captured by the enemy class—as happened in both the Soviet Union and China. If a revolutionary people is to be sure the revolution will not be reversed, they must be trained to keep a somewhat warry eye even on their own leaders and their own revolutionary party. This means that people must not become blind followers of any individual or party.
• Populism: “Leading people” based on what they already, entirely spontaneously, want to do. If the only factor here is the initial understanding and proclivities of the masses, not informed by any significant educational work and persuasion, then this is not really leadership at all, but rather the absence of it. I.e., it is tailism. It is the tacit anarchist view that no leadership of the mass struggle is even necessary, and that it should be allowed to evolve in whatever direction it goes in, willy-nilly, and with no coherent final goal.
• “From the masses, to the masses” This is the “mass line” method of leadership. This method still means that the leaders are trying to get the followers to do what the leaders think needs to be done; but the difference is that what the leaders want the followers to do is here based on what many of the followers themselves see the need to do and are prepared to take action on as well as on the genuine consideration of the real ultimate interests of the masses and a careful appraisal of the objective situation. The method of “From the masses, to the masses” is both by far the best method of leadership, and also the only method of leadership that deserves to be called democratic.
See also: “Leadership of the Masses: Bourgeois and Proletarian”, Ch. 12 from the book The Mass Line and the American Revolutionary Movement, by S.H., online at: http://www.massline.info/mlms/mlch12.htm; and “Methods of Leadership and the Mass Line”, Ch. 13 from the same book, online at: http://www.massline.info/mlms/mlch13.htm
“In all the practical work of our Party, all correct leadership is necessarily ‘from the masses, to the masses’. This means: take the ideas of the masses (scattered and unsystematic ideas) and concentrate them (through study turn them into concentrated and systematic ideas), then go to the masses and propagate and explain these ideas until the masses embrace them as their own, hold fast to them and translate them into action, and test the correctness of these ideas in such action. Then once again concentrate ideas from the masses and once again go to the masses so that the ideas are persevered in and carried through. And so on, over and over again in an endless spiral, with the ideas becoming more correct, more vital and richer each time. Such is the Marxist theory of knowledge.” —Mao, “Some Questions Concerning Methods of Leadership” (June 1, 1943), SW 3:119.
LEADERSHIP VS. EDUCATION
As mentioned in the entry above, leadership means getting people to do things. This contrasts with education which means getting people to know or understand things. It may seem odd, but sometimes these two quite distinct tasks are confused with each other.
Partly this is because leadership and education are complementary and mutually supporting tasks. If a revolutionary party or organization is trying to lead people in struggling for their own class interests (and most of all toward social revolution) it is obviously extremely helpful to first get them to better understand just what their own collective interests truly are. Perhaps less obviously, people in action, such as people engaged in mass struggle, are in a much better situation to learn about just what their own long-term interests are. Because they are in the midst of serious struggle their old and traditional ideas become more open to question, and their minds become open to new ways of thinking.
In short the work of political education makes political leadership easier; and the work of political leadership makes political education easier. The two distinct tasks—provided they both are undertaken—blend into the single overall task of the revolutionary party: to educate and lead the masses in revolution.
However, in the post-World War II era in advanced capitalist countries like the U.S., new revolutionary groups and parties have commonly arisen out of student groups with little connection to the lives and existing struggles of the workers and masses. They know from studying Marx, Lenin and Mao that they should be leading the masses in struggle, and yet they find it much easier to just put out educational leaflets and newspapers or even to simply put forward their ideas on the Internet. Since that is pretty much all they are doing, it comes to seem to them that it is all they can be doing, and even all they need to be doing at this time. To them the attempted work of what is really only political education seems to actually be leadership work.
In the case of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA this erroneous conception has been “justified” at the theoretical level. You see, the workers are only interested in reforms today, and the RCP refuses to have anything to do with the struggles for reforms, and so all they can do now is to educate the workers on the need for revolution, and—when they are finally ready to act in a revolutionary way—to then lead them in action. Thus, for the RCP, the primary revolutionary “leadership” possible today is actually the work of revolutionary education. (Though they do also take part in demonstrations against racism and police murders—because by strongly condemning the police and the government it somehow seems to them that they are not involved in mere reformist struggle.) However, as we mentioned earlier, revolutionary political education is far more effective if it is combined with mass struggle—even if that mass struggle is over reforms. Thus while the RCP may win a few people to its ranks where it makes an exception to its general rule (of not participating in reformist struggles) it is making no progress overall in bringing revolutionary ideas to the American working class.
[In 2002 Scott Harrison had an online debate with several
representatives of the RCP about leadership and the mass line. The full report of
this debate is available at:
In the excerpt below, Dolly Veale, a spokesperson for the RCP at that time, tries to
defend the Party’s involvement in leadership work among the masses, and the use of
the mass line in doing so. Here she argues that putting out an informational leaflet
about the 9/11 attacks in 2001 was an application of the mass line. Followed by
[Dolly Veale’s remarks:] “I think an excellent example of our Party’s concrete application of the mass line is the statement we issued on September 14 about the 9/11 events in New York (see rwor.org). The masses loved that leaflet and so do I! I learned a lot from that statement’s profound and poetic application of the mass line in handling the acute contradiction in our two ‘90/10’ strategy — in not pitting the interests of the majority of the world against the majority in this country, as the bourgeoisie works to do.”
[Scott’s response:] “Well, here we have yet another false example of ‘using the mass line’. Putting out a leaflet, no matter how good it might be, is (in itself) not an example of using the mass line.
“Remember that the mass line is a method of leadership, as your own draft programme says twice. Putting out a propaganda or agitational leaflet, such as the RCP leaflet about 9/11 is clearly an educational action, not a leadership action.
“It is true that when there is some actual attempt at leading the masses to do something or other, that a leaflet or newspaper article can be part of the means of carrying out step 3 of the mass line process—taking the line back to the masses for them to act on. Even then, the leaflet is only a part of the overall process of using the mass line. But in this case, the Party was not even attempting to get the masses to engage in any particular action in the wake of 9/11, so how can this possibly be considered an example of ‘using the mass line?’”
[Or, indeed, of mass leadership of any sort! —S.H.]
LEAGUE OF NATIONS
An attempted international organization of the nations of the world which was set up at the Versailles Conference in 1919-20 after World War I, and was eventually supplanted by the United Nations established after World War II. Though originally proposed by the U.S., the U.S. did not actually join the League of Nations once it became clear that the U.S. could not hope to totally dominate it in the way it originally envisioned. (This refusal is falsely claimed within the U.S. to be the result of the U.S. Senate’s “isolationism”.)
“In January 1918, toward the end of the war [World War I], President
Wilson put forward his ‘Fourteen Points’ to lay the ‘cornerstone of world peace.’ The
‘peace’ he advocated naturally could be only an imperialist peace, and, as Lenin said,
‘an imperialist peace ... will bring the peoples the greatest deception in the form of
pious phrases, semi-reforms, semi-concessions, etc.’ [‘A Turn in World Politics’, LCW
23:262]. And it was true, Wilson’s ‘Fourteen Points’ were a scheme to smash Soviet
state power under Lenin’s leadership, transforming it into a bourgeois parliamentary
government. Thus in April 1918 he viciously sent troops and arms to intervene in
Soviet Russia. At the same time, he wanted to use the U.S. economic domination
established during the war to usurp political dominance of the world as well. The
establishment of the League of Nations was a means to this goal.
“However, Wilson’s wishful calculations fell through. From the beginning, control of the League of Nations fell into the hands of England and France, and as a result, the U.S. Senate rejected membership in it.” —Shih Chan, A Brief History of the United States (Peking: 1972), available online in English translation at: http://www.bannedthought.net/China/MaoEra/Pubs/History/A-Brief-History-of-the-United-States-Shih-Chan-1972.pdf
LEAGUE OF RUSSIAN REVOLUTIONARY SOCIAL-DEMOCRACY ABROAD
“The League of Russian Revolutionary Social-Democracy Abroad
was founded in October 1901 on Lenin’s initiative, incorporating the Iskra-Zarya
organization abroad and the Sotsial-Demokrat organization (which included the
Emancipation of Labor group). The
objects of the League were to propagate the dieas of revolutionary Social-Democracy
and help to build a militant Social-Democratic organization. Actually, the League was
the foreign representative of the Iskra organization. It recruited supporters
for Iskra among Social-Democrats living abroad, gave the paper material support,
organized its delivery to Russia, and punblished popular Marxist literature. The
Second Party Congress endorsed the League as the sole Party organization abroad, with
the status of a Party committee and the obligation of working under the Central
Committee’s direction and control.
“After the Second Party Congress, the Mensheviks entrenched themselves in the League and used it in their fight against Lenin and the Bolsheviks. At the Second Congress of the League, in October 1903, they adopted new League Rules that ran counter to the Party Rules adopted at the Party Congress. From that time on the League was a bulwark of Menshevism. It continued in existence until 1905.” —Note 15, LCW 7.
LEAGUE OF STRUGGLE FOR THE EMANCIPATION OF THE WORKING CLASS
“The League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working
Class was organized by Lenin in the autumn of 1895; it embraced about twenty
Marxist workers’ study circles in St. Petersburg. The work of the League of Struggle
was organized in its entirety on principles of centralism and strict discipline. The
League was headed by a Central Group consisting of V. I. Lenin, A. A. Vaneyev, P. K.
Zaporozhets, G. M. Krzhizhanovsky, N. K. Krupskaya,
L. Martov (Y. O. Tsederbaum), M. A. Zilvin, V. V. Starkov
and others. Direct leadership was in the hands of a group of five headed by Lenin.
The organization was divided into district groups. Advanced, class-conscious workers
(I. V. Babushkin, V. A. Shelgunov and others) linked these groups with the factories.
At the factories there were organizers who gathered information and distributed
literature; workers’ study circles were set up at the biggest establishments.
“The League of Struggle was the first organization in Russia to combine socialism with the working-class movement. The League guided the working-class movement, linking up the economic struggle of the workers with the struggle against tsarism, it published leaflets and pamphlets for the workers. Lenin was the editor of the League’s publications and preparations for the issue of a working-class newspaper, Rabocheye Dyelo, were made under his leadership. The influence of the League of Struggle spread far beyond St. Petersburg. Following its example, workers’ study circles were united into Leagues of Struggle in Moscow, Kiev, Ekaterinoslav and other towns and regions of Russia.
“In December 1895, the tsarist government dealt the League a heavy blow. During the night of December 8-9 (December 20-21 New Style) a considerable number of League members were arrested, Lenin among them; the first issue of Rabocheye Dyelo that was ready for the press was seized.
“At the first meeting held after the arrests it was decided to call the organization of St. Petersburg Social-Democrats the League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class. As an answer to the arrest of Lenin and the other members of the League, those who escaped arrest issued a leaflet on a political theme; it was written by workers.
“While Lenin was in prison he continued to guide the work of the League, to help with advice; he sent letters and leaflets written in cipher out of prison and wrote the pamphlet ‘Strikes’ (this manuscript has not been discovered), and ‘Draft and Explanation of a Programme for the Social-Democratic Party’ (LCW 2:93-121).
“The St. Petersburg League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class was important, to use Lenin’s definition, because it was the germ of a revolutionary party that took its support from the working class and led the class struggle of the proletariat. In the latter half of 1898 the League fell into the hands of the Economists who planted the ideas of trade-unionism and Bernsteinism on Russian soil through their newspaper Rabochaya Mysl. In 1898, however, the old members of the League who had escaped arrest took part in preparing the way for the First Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. and in drawing up the Manifesto of that Congress, thus continuing the traditions of Lenin’s League of Struggle.” —Note 119, Lenin SW1 (1967).
LEAGUE OF THE JUST
One of the early proletarian political organizations which spontaneously developed in Europe in the first part of the 19th century. This particular organization was transformed by Marx and Engels into the Communist League.
“In the beginning of 1845, Marx moved to Brussels, where he was soon
joined by Engels. Here the situation was more favorable to political activity. This
was the period that saw the rise of the bourgeois-democratic movement in Western
Europe, a movement in which the proletariat was taking an increasingly active part.
Various workers’ organizations, secret societies and sectarian groupings arose under
the influence of the ideas of utopian and petty-bourgeois socialists. One of the
largest of such organizations, with branches in a number of countries, was the League
of the Just. Its motto was ‘All Men are Brothers’ and its members called for the
establishment of ‘the Kingom of God on earth’, based on the ideals of ‘love of one’s
neighbor’, equality and justice.
“At the beginning of 1847, Marx and Engels joined the League of the Just and took part in its reorganization. The first congress of this league took place in London and confirmed the renaming of the league the Communist League. The former motto ‘All Men are Brothers’ was replaced by the slogan of proletarian internationalism ‘Workers of All Countries, Unite!’ This slogan, which had first appeared in the draft rules of the Communist League, became the militant slogan of the international workers’ movement.”
—The Basics of Marxist-Leninist Theory, ed. by G. N. Volkov, (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1979), p. 24. [Although by the time this book was written the revisionists had long-since seized power in the Soviet Union and were purveying their distortions of Marxism-Leninism, the comments here about the early activities of Marx and Engels seem valid to us. —Ed.]
LEFT vs. “LEFT”
Since the days of the great French Revolution the left has referred to those in politics who want progressive change in the interests of the people, rather than maintaining the status quo or even change backward in a reactionary direction. However, within the revolutionary Marxist milieu, the left refers to genuine revolutionaries and not mere reformers. For Marxists, the “left” or “leftist”, when it is in scare-quotes like that, refers not to the genuine left, but rather to the phony, so-called “left” which is actually opposed to revolution, or else to “ultra-leftists” whose inappropriate slogans and actions will not actually lead the situation forward to revolution.
Thus what a particular individual means by the left or leftist depends on their own political views (and specifically whether they are a true and rational revolutionary or not).
“Guard against ‘Left’ and Right deviations. Some people say, ‘It is better to be on the “Left” than on the Right,’ a remark repeated by many comrades. In fact, there are many who say to themselves that ‘It is better to be on the Right than on the “Left”’, but they don’t say it aloud. Only those who are honest say so openly. So there are these two opinions. What is ‘Left’? To move far ahead of the times, to outpace current developments, to be rash in action and in matters of principle and policy and to hit out indiscriminately in struggles and controversies—these are ‘Left’ deviations and are no good. To fall behind the times, to fail to keep pace with current developments and to be lacking in militancy—these are Right deviations and are no good either. In our Party there are people who prefer to be on the ‘Left’, and then there are also quite a few who prefer to be on the Right or to take a position right of center. Neither is good. We must wage a struggle on both fronts, combating both ‘Left’ and Right deviations.” —Mao, “Speeches at the National Conference of the Communist Party of China: Concluding Speech” (March 31, 1955), SW 5:167.
“Whoever commits the error of isolating himself is guilty of ‘Leftism’. Whoever does not isolate those who should be isolated is guilty of Rightism.” —Communist Party County Secretary Ch’en of Lucheng County, Shansi Province, 1948; quoted in William Hinton, Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in a Chinese Village (1966), p. 401. [Although perhaps a little simplistic, there seems to be some considerable truth to this aphorism! —S.H.]
This term designates different groups of erring Communists (or communist-minded people), often semi-anarchists, at different times and places.
1) The group within the Bolsheviks in 1918 who opposed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk signed in December 1917 which ended World War I between Germany and Russia. This included Nikolai Bukharin, Karl Radek and G. L. Pyatakov. Leon Trotsky also opposed this Treaty, and is sometimes included within this group of “left-wing” communists, and is sometimes mentioned separately from them. This whole group correctly recognized that the Treaty was a bitter pill, but failed to understand that the survival of the Revolution depended on accepting it. The Seventh Congress of the Party in March 1918 rejected the position of this group.
2) The trend within the fledgling international Communist movement after the success of the Bolshevik Revolution and the end of World War I, especially in Germany and other European countries. This is the trend Lenin strongly criticized in his pamphlet, “Left-Wing” Communism—An Infantile Disorder (see entry below).
3) Similar semi-anarchist, ultra-“leftist”, or propaganda-oriented trends and groups which are totally divorced from mass struggle, at other times and places.
“LEFT-WING” COMMUNISM—AN INFANTILE DISORDER
A very important pamphlet written by Lenin in April-May 1920, and directed against some of the young, inexperienced and semi-anarchist communists in Europe and around the world who were attracted to communism because of the success of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, but who failed to appreciate the need to combine revolutionary ideas with the working-class movement. It was immediately translated into German, English and French. This work was prepared just before the Second Congress of the Communist International, and each delegate to that Congress was given a copy of it.
This pamphlet is included in volume 31 of Lenin’s Collected Works [4th English language edition], and is available online at several places, including: http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1920/lwc/
“Left Wing Communism is a handbook of Communist Party
strategy and tactics, of Communist leadership, and the building of a mass party.
It was written in 1920, at the time of the 2nd Congress of the Communist
International, in order to correct the ‘leftist’ mistakes being made by Communists
in a number of countries.
“Lenin draws on the experiences of the Russian Bolsheviks as a guide for the world Communist movement.
“The Bolshevik Party, he points out, grew strong and became steeled not only in the fight against opportunism, but also in the fight against ‘petty-bourgeois leftism.’
“What are the principal teachings of Left Wing Communism?
“1. Lenin shows the need for a centralized and disciplined party and for maintaining proper relationships between leaders, party, class and masses. He shows the need for a firm party leadership and the danger of leftist talk which seeks to oppose ‘masses against leaders.’ Such leftist talk, he shows, amounts to repudiation of the party and of party discipline, that is, disarming the proletariat for the benefit of the bourgeoisie. Such an attitude does not spring from the working class, which understands the need for organization, but from the petty bourgeoisie. Our task is not only to defeat the big capitalists, but also (what is even more difficult), to remold and re-educate the small producers. This requires a long and arduous struggle against the forces and traditions of the old system, which can ony be carried out by a centralized and disciplined party.
“Lenin further shows how leftist moods play into the hands of agents provocateurs.
“2. Lenin shows the need for a ‘mass party.’ He shows that the task is to lead the masses, not just to work wherever the masses are to be found, to penetrate everywhere, to rouse the masses and draw them into the struggle.
“In this connection he stresses how important it is to work in the trade unions; to refuse to do so on the pretext that the trade unions are ‘reactionary’ would mean to leave the mass of the workers under the influence of a handful of reactionary leaders. We must work wherever the masses are to be found, taking into account their level of development, not fence ourselves off from them by artificial ‘left-wing’ slogans.
“3. Lenin shows that the party must master all forms of working class struggle. In conditions of illegality it must learn to combine legal with illegal struggle. He particularly stresses the need for the party to master the methods of parliamentary struggle, of participation in elections and in bourgeois parliaments for the purpose of educating, awakening and enlightening the masses.
“He stresses that the party must be ready quickly to pass from one form of struggle to another, and must practise self-criticism and learn from its own mistakes. Otherwise it is not a mass party but a group of intellectuals.
“4. Lenin ridicules the leftists who put forward the slogan ‘no compromise.’ We must know how to reach compromise agreements with other parties and to apply these tactics to raise and not lower the workers’ ability to fight and conquer. It is necessary to win every possible ally and to utilize every division in the ranks of the enemy.
“It is necessary, moreover, to learn not to fall into enemy traps—not to accept battle at a time advantageous to the enemy and to avoid an obviously disadvantageous battle.
“In Chapter 9 Lenin deals with Britain and expounds the tactics of building unity with Labour against the Tories. This, he says, will enable the British communists to gain the ear of the masses, to educate them and to hasten the end of right-wing influence.
“5. Lenin shows that the communists must find the correct form of approach, the correct road to the proletarian revolution in each country. The struggle has features peculiar to each country. We cannot lay down general rules applicable to all cases, but it is necessary that the fundamental principles of communism shall be correctly adapted to national and nation-state differences. Attention must be concentrated, says Lenin, on finding the forms of transition or approach to the proletarian revolution. This means to find the right path to bring the masses up to the decisive revolutionary struggle.
“In this connection he deals with the conditions necessary for the successful carrying through of the proletarian socialist revolution.”
—Readers’ Guide to the Marxist Classics, prepared and edited by Maurice Cornforth, (London: 1953), pp. 48-50.
The promotion of ultra-“leftist” slogans which are entirely premature or otherwise inappropriate in the given situation.
“We are also opposed to ‘Left’ phrase-mongering. The thinking of ‘Leftists’ outstrips a given stage of development of the objective process; some regard their fantasies as truth, while others strain to realize in the present an ideal which can only be realized in the future. They alienate themselves from the current practice of the majority of the people and from the realities of the day, and show themselves adventurist in their actions.” —Mao, “On Practice” (July 1937), SW1:307.
“LEGAL MARXISM” [Russia]
The “Legal Marxists” were not just people who published semi-Marxist writings in the legal newspapers and magazines in Tsarist Russia, but rather those (such as Pyotr Struve, Sergei Bulgakov and Nikolai Berdyaev) who opposed revolutionary Marxism in their writings in legal publications. They were rightly despised by Lenin and the Bolsheviks.
LEIBNIZ, Gottfried Wilhelm (1646-1716)
[To be added...]
See also: MONADS, NEUTRAL MONISM, and Philosophical doggerel about Leibniz.
Apologists for capitalism have periodically predicted that, “in the future”, capitalism will be producing so much with so little effort by the workers, that there will be a “golden age of leisure”. However, despite all the productivity improvements during the capitalist era, and the immense productive capacity of capitalism (much of which is not even used!), somehow this age of leisure never seems to dawn. The trend is actually now for people to work longer and longer hours; that is, for those who have jobs at all. The only life of comfortable leisure under capitalism is for those who own the means of production; the “leisure” of the long-term or permanently unemployed is mostly a life of misery.
“In the 1970s there was much talk of an imminent ‘leisure age’ in which, thanks to automation, we would scarcely work at all—and a spate of books brooding earnestly on how we would fill our new spare time without becoming hopelessly lethargic. Anybody spotting one of these forgotten tracts in a second-hand bookshop today would laugh incredulously. The average British employee now puts in 80,224 hours over his or her working life, as against 69,000 hours in 1981. Far from losing the work ethic, we seem ever more enslaved by it. The new vogue is for books that ask anxiously how we can achieve a ‘work-life balance’ in an age when many people have no time for anything beyond labour and sleep.” —Francis Wheen, Marx’s Das Kapital: A Biography (2006), p. 59.
LENIN, V. I. (1870-1924)
[To be added...]
“It is true that once the blatant hagiography is cut away the picture [of Lenin] that the Party has painted for more than half a century conforms nearly to the facts. Lenin was, indeed, dedicated to the cause as few men are dedicated. His personal austerity was of a quality found in few people, and his life had an almost puritan strictness, which survives the most diligent inspection. In these respects Lenin under the microscope is remarkably like the public figure that has been painted since the early days of the Revolution.” —Ronald W. Clark, Lenin: A Biography (1988), p. 493. [Clark is a liberal bourgeois writer and certainly no Marxist. But his biography of Lenin is nevertheless sympathetic to the man, as indeed any honest biography of the great revolutionary would have to be. —Ed.]
LENIN — On the Agrarian Question
“In his writings on the agrarian question, Lenin provides, in the
first place, an analysis of the laws of development of capitalism in agriculture,
based on a wealth of statistical information from European countries and from the
“This analysis is to be found in his writings:
Capitalism in Agriculture.
The Agrarian Question and the ‘Critics’ of Marx.
New Data on the Laws of Development of Capitalism in Agriculture.
The Agrarian Programme of Social Democracy in the First Russian Revolution.
“These writings are difficult to follow unless the reader has previous acquaintance with the main ideas of Marxist economics. They are an important continuation and application of the principles of Marx’s Capital. They constitute an indispensable part of Marxist studies particularly for those concerned with agricultural questions. They are all polemical in style, being directed against writers who either denied the capitalist development of agriculture altogether or misrepresented its laws of development.
“In Capitalism in Agriculture, Lenin deals with a Narodnik writer who had criticized Kautsky’s book on the agrarian question (written at a time when Kautsky was still a Marxist). Lenin makes clear a number of fundamental characteristics of the development of capitalism in agriculture—the proportion of constant to variable capital increases in agriculture, as in industry; there takes place a concentration of land-ownership in the hands of landlords and mortgage corporations; large-scale production supplants small-scale, not merely by increase in the area of farms but also by increase of intensity of production on a small area; there is a growth of wage labor and of the utilization of machinery. He then shows further how the development of capitalist agriculture is hampered by various difficulties and contradictions, particularly ground rent, the growth of the urban at the expense of rural population, and competition of cheap grain from newly developed areas overseas where the producers are not burdened by ground rent.
“The same questions are again taken up in The Agrarian Question and the ‘Critics’ of Marx. Here, after a fundamental explanation of the fallacy of the so-called ‘law’ of diminishing returns, and an exposition of the Marxist theory of ground rent, Lenin deals especially with the question of large-scale versus small-scale farming, exposing the error of those who imagine that small farming is more ‘progressive.’
“New Data on the Laws of Development of Capitalism in Agriculture brings out further the points already explained by means of a profound analysis of the development of agriculture in the United States. Amongst other points emphasized both in this and the previous articles is the essentially capitalist character of agricultural co-operation, in a capitalist state, through farmers’ co-operative associations. [But see also Lenin On Co-operation.]
“In The Agrarian Programme of Social Democracy in the First Russian Revolution, 1905-7, Lenin gives a detailed analysis of the existing system of land ownership in Russia and of the tasks of the agrarian revolution in Russia.
“The key issues are confiscation of the estates of the landlords and nationalization of the land. Lenin proves that the nationalization of the land, in a capitalist state, does not destroy capitalism in agriculture but, on the contrary, by removing the main obstacles to the free investment of capital in agriculture, furthers its development. This point is developed in Chapter III, which also contains a simply exposition of the Marxist theory of ground rent....
“Two writings by Lenin dealing with the agrarian question in pre-revolutionary Russia must be noted here, in addition to the treatment of the development of capitalism in Russian agriculture contained in the relevant chapters of [Lenin’s book] The Development of Capitalism in Russia.
“In The Agrarian Question in Russia at the End of the Nineteenth Century, Lenin gives a detailed analysis of the types of farming in Russia and of their development, of the classes, of the process of division of the peasants, and concludes that two alternative paths of development were open to Russian agriculture—the ‘Russian’ path, through the growth of kulak farming, or the ‘American’ path, through the nationalization of the land. This analysis provided the basis for the agrarian programme of Russian Social-Democracy, including its demand, voiced later, for the nationalization of the land.
“In the booklet To the Rural Poor published in 1903 for illegal distribution amongst the peasants, we find a model of the simple, popular and forceful presentation of the party’s whole economic and class analysis and programme of action.”
—Maurice Cornforth, Readers’ Guide to the Marxist Classics (1953), pp. 41-42.
LENIN — On the Communist International
“In his pamphlet, Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution,
which he published in April 1917 on his return to Russia after the February
Revolution of that year, Lenin distinguished three trends in the international
movement: the social chauvinists, who were lined up openly with their own imperialists;
the centrists, who conciliated with them; and the genuine internationalists, who
opposed the imperialist war. Lenin proclaimed that it was urgently necessary for the
latter to set up a new Communist International, which would break completely with
opportunism and unite the working class on the basis of the revolutionary principles
“The First Congress of the Communist International was held in the spring of 1919.
“Immediately afterwards, in his article The Third International and its Place in History, Lenin pointed out that while the 1st International had laid the foundation of the international working class struggle for socialism, and the 2nd International had broadened the movement in a number of countries, the 3rd International was purging the movement of opportunism and had begun to realize the dictatorship of the proletariat, opening up a new epoch in world history.
“Throughout Lenin’s contributions to the Communist International runs the theme of the fight against opportunism, and also against petty-bourgeois ‘leftism’ which isolates the Communists from the mass of the workers. (See Left Wing Communism.)
“In the pamphlet, The Tasks of the Third International (July, 1919), Lenin underlined the necessity to:
“1. Systematically explain the difference between reform and revolution, while not rejecting reforms nor work in bourgeois parliaments.
“2. Combine legal and illegal work.
“3. Work for the expulsion of the opportunists from the labor movement.
“4. Assist the revolutionary struggle for colonial liberation.
“5. Expose those who used revolutionary phrases as a cover for reactionary deeds.
“At the Second Congress of the C.I., in the summer of 1920, Lenin drafted the Theses on the Fundamental Tasks of the 2nd Congress of the C.I. These laid it down that the victory of socialism requires:
“1. the overthrow and suppression of the exploiters;
“2. the winning of the working masses behind the leadership of the Communist Parties, which must become inseparably linked with the whole life of the working class;
“3. the neurtralizing of wavering sections.
The Theses go on to deal with what the communists must do to realize these conditions and to stress that opportunism in the working class movement is the principal enemy.
“In a report delivered to the Second Congress on The International Situation and the Fundamental Tasks of the C.I. Lenin exhaustively analyzed the post-war economic and political situation.
“At the Second Congress he drafted The Conditions of Affiliation to the C.I. And in his speech on this subject he dealt especially with the difference between the dictatorship of the proletariat and the reformist conception of ‘winning power.’
“Lenin likewise drafted the Theses on the Agrarian Question, which deal with the tasks of building the alliance with the peasants; and the Theses on the National and Colonial Question.
“In a speech on The Role of the Communist Party Lenin replied to the British delegates Tanner and McLaine, showing that the conscious revolutionary minority of the working class must form a party in order to lead the masses, and dealing also with the problem of the affiliation of the British Communist Party to the Labour Party.
“An article written at the same time on False Speeches About Freedom explains the necessity of a break with opportunism. In a speech In Support of the Tactics of the C.I., at the Third Congress in the summer of 1921, Lenin stresses that the party must win leadership of the masses, i.e. of the majority of the working people. Unless the majority is won to follow the lead of the party, victory of socialism is impossible.
“The same theme recurs in a Letter to the German Communists.
—Maurice Cornforth, Readers’ Guide to the Marxist Classics (1953), pp. 53-54.
LENIN — On Mass Democracy and the Mass Line
A fact not commonly recognized, even by many Maoists today, is that Lenin had a great appreciation for the wisdom and abilities of the masses, for the importance of mass democracy, for the central role of the masses in making revolution, and even a grasp (perhaps mostly intuitively) of what became known in Maoist China as “the mass line” method of revolutionary leadership.
[More to be added.]
“[O]n the one hand the character of the Soviets guarantees that
all these new reforms will be introduced only when an overwhelming majority of the
people has clearly and firmly realized the practical need for them; on the other
hand their character guarantees that the reforms will not be sponsored by the
police and officials, but will be carried out by way of voluntary participation of
the organized and armed masses of the proletariat and peasantry in the management
of their own affairs.” —Lenin, “Resolution on the Current Situation”, May 16 (3),
1917, LCW 24:311.
[These are quite similar to the basic points that Mao made when he said that: “There are two principles here: one is the actual needs of the masses rather than what we fancy they need, and the other is the wishes of the masses, who must make up their own minds instead of our making up their minds for them.” —Mao, Quotations, ch. XI; originally from “The United Front in Cultural Work” (Oct. 30, 1944), SW 3:236-7.]
LENIN — On Opportunism and its Roots in the Labor Movement
“Lenin’s fundamental analysis of the nature and causes of
opportunism in the labor movement, which is summed up in his book Imperialism,
the Last Stage of Capitalism, is worked out in a number of comparatively short
“In The Historical Destiny of the Teaching of Karl Marx (1913) Lenin showed that up to that time the working class movement had passed through three main stages. The first was the period of revolutionary storm, from the 1848 revolutions to the Paris Commune of 1871, in the course of which independent working class parties were first organized. The next phase, up to the Russian Revolution of 1905, was a phase of comparatively ‘peaceful’ development. The working class parties grew stronger, established their own daily press and learned to use bourgeois parliamentarism. But in this phase opportunism crept into the movement, preaching ‘social peace’ and renunciation of class struggle. Lastly, since the 1905 Revolution, new revolutionary crises were on the way, and it was absolutely essential to drive opportunism out of the movement and secure the victory of revolutionary Marxism.
“In an earlier article, Marxism and Revisionism (1908), Lenin analyzed revisionism—the ‘theory’ of the opportunists who continued to call themselves Marxists while revising all the fundamental principles of Marxism. He showed that the revisionists relied on the ‘latest thing’ in bourgeois philosophy, giving up materialist dialectics; that they took up the latest theories of bourgeois political economy, in particular ‘correcting’ Marx’s theory of value and denying the inevitability of capitalist crises; and that they affirmed that democracy and universal suffrage had removed the grounds of the class struggle.
“Revisionism led to giving up the aim of socialism and ‘sacrificing the basic interests of the working class for real or assumed momentary advantages.’ It represented the influence of the petty bourgeoisie in the working class movement.
“In Differences in the European Labor Movement (1910) Lenin points out that the appearance of such anti-Marxist trends in the Labor movement could not be accidental, but arose from the character of economic development in all capitalist countries. And in Reformism in the Russian Social-Democratic Movement (1911) he relates reformist ideas directly to the influence of capitalist propaganda. Instead of fighting openly against socialism, the capitalists were learning to advocate the gradual, piecemeal reform of capitalism—the patching up of capitalism; and they were utilizing such propaganda in order to divide and weaken the working class and maintain capitalist class rule. This propaganda was reflected in reformist ideology inside the working class movement itself—the advocacy of reforms versus revolution. (This article contains a wealth of detailed argument against the reformist socialists who said that the Russian workers must on no account turn again to the path of revolution.)
“In Imperialism and the Split in Socialism (1916) Lenin sums up the fundamental cause of the prevalence and strength of opportunism in the labor movement. It arises from the fact that the super-profits of imperialism could be used to bribe and corrupt an upper stratum of the working class. As a result of this, ‘a bourgeois Labour Party’ inevitably made its appearance in all imperialist countries.
“Dealing with Britain in particular, Lenin shows that opportunism had prevailed for decades, beginning before the birth of imperalism proper in Britain. The industrial monopoly and rich colonies possessed by the British capitalists in the pre-imperialist phase of development was already bringing them super-profits, thus already producing certain of the features of imperialism.
“Lenin had also dealt with the theme in his book The Collapse of the Second International (1915). Here he defines the meaning of the term ‘opportunism.’ It means ‘sacrificing to the temporary interests of an insignificant minority of the workers the fundamental interests of the masses’; or, in other words, ‘an alliance of a part of the workers with the bourgeoisie against the mass of the proletariat.’
“Opportunism could arise and grow strong because the capitalists were able to make concessions to a section of the workers in imperialist countries, thus creating a ‘layer’ of privileged workers. Opportunism is strengethened, Lenin adds, by ‘the power of habit, the routine of comparatively peaceful evolution, national prejudices, fear of acute breaks and disbelief in them.’
“The opportunism of the leaders of the Second International culminated in their going over to the side of their own imperialists in 1914. Lenin tears to pieces their arguments justifying their support of the imperialist war. We find on the part of the opportunist leaders, Lenin concludes, ‘socialism in words,’ but in practice ‘joining the bourgeoisie in every serious crisis.’ They must be expelled from the working class parties.”
—Maurice Cornforth, Readers’ Guide to the Marxist Classics (1953), pp. 50-51.
LENIN — On War
“The fundamental teachings concerning the attitude of the
working class party towards war were hammered out by Lenin during the First
World War. They are summed up in History of C.P.S.U.(B.), Chapter 6,
“In Socialism and War (1915) Lenin establishes the distinction between just and unjust wars, and sums up the essential teachings of Marxism on the policy of the working class in an unjust, imperialist war.
“He shows that the war which broke out in 1914 was an unjust imperialist war waged between two rival blocs of imperialist powers. In such a war the working class on each side must oppose its own imperialism, and strive to ‘turn the imperialist war into civil war.’
“Lenin showed that when imperialist war had broken out it was impossible to establish a just peace without overthrowing the imperialist governments. Hence the abstract slogan of ‘peace’ put forward during the war by certain liberals and pacificsts was a deceptive slogan.
“He shows that the support of the war by the ‘socialists’ of the Second International was a direct betrayal of socialism. He coins the phrase ‘social-chauvinism’ to denote their policy. Social-chauvinism is defense of the fatherland in an unjust war undertaken by people calling themselves socialists. Lenin calls for a break with opportunism and social-chauvinism on an international scale, and the setting up of a new Third International on a revolutionary basis.
“Lenin again expounds the Marxist attitude to imperialist war in a Lecture on War, delivered in May, 1917. He again stresses the distinction of just and unjust wars, explaining that we must always ask what class conducts the war and for what aims.
“In other articles Lenin deals with certain special problems arising out of the world war.
“In The United States of Europe Slogan (1915) he shows that the workers could not support such a slogan. For so long as imperialist powers remain in being, a ‘united states of Europe’ could mean nothing else than an agreement to divide up colonies and booty and jointly to suppress socialism.
“Socialism will eventually make possible ‘the United States of the World.’ But this is not a practical objective at the present time. For as a result of the uneven development of capitalism, ‘the victory of socialism is possible in several or even in one capitalist country taken singly’; and such a country or countries may for a long period remain centers of socialism around which there are still ringed hostile capitalist states.
“In Pacifism and the Workers Lenin deals with the pacifist slogan of complete disarmament. He shows that it is unrealizable in capitalist conditions, and that to campaign for it is therefore to avoid the real issues of revolutionary struggle against imperialism.
“The oppressed peoples cannot be pacifists, but must learn the use of arms and be prepared to turn them against their oppressors. Oppressed people who cannot use arms deserve to be treated like slaves. We cannot be pacifists, because we recognize the existence of just wars, of wars of the oppressed against the oppressors.
“The same theme recurs in The War Programme of the Proletarian Revolution (1916). In the first part of this article Lenin shows that socialists are not and cannot be opposed to all wars. For there are wars of oppressed peoples fighting for their liberation; civil wars; and, when socialism is established, there may be wars to defend socialist countries from imperialist attack. Oppressed peoples must be ready to wage wars of liberation. And socialist peoples must be ready to defend their socialist fatherland.
“In the remaining parts of this article Lenin deals further with the working class attitude to military training, arms and the use of arms.”
—Maurice Cornforth, Readers’ Guide to the Marxist Classics (1953), pp. 51-52.
The further development and extension or modification of Marxism which is attributed (either correctly or incorrectly) to V. I. Lenin. The term ‘Marxism-Leninism’ refers to the science of revolutionary Marxism which includes the contributions of Lenin (as well as those of Marx, Engels and others), while the term ‘Leninism’ itself tends to focus more on those elements of Marxism-Leninism which are attributable (properly or not) to Lenin specifically and not primarily to Marx and Engels. Thus those who imagine that Marx was a bourgeois humanist and Lenin was not, will see a larger part of Marxism-Leninism (as it is usually understood) as being due to Lenin, than those who see more agreement between the ideas of Marx and Lenin in the first place. Therefore, what is counted as distinctively ‘Leninist’ depends on the speaker’s notion of what Marxism itself was properly viewed as before Lenin, as well as their notion of how Lenin influenced and/or developed Marxism.
Leninism as it should be properly understood by revolutionary Marxists includes at least these main overall points:
1) The application of Marxism to the particular cirmstances and conditions of Russia;
2) The regeneration of Marxism as a revolutionary theory after its degeneration into bourgeois reformism in the Second International after the death of Marx and Engels;
3) The further development of Marxism in the changed conditions of the new capitalist-imperialist era, and with the successful October Revolution in Russia. And within this 3rd point, the following main sub-points:
a) The recognition that capitalist-imperialism was a whole new stage of capitalism, that it necessarily involved both predatory wars and inter-imperialist wars, and that it represented a further diseased and moribund social system which had become ripe for revolution, including wars of national liberation in imperialist colonies.
b) A greater emphasis on the role of the revolutionary proletarian party, along with a somewhat different conception of the character of such a party (as a party of professional revolutionaries organized on the basis of democratic centralism);
c) The actual direction of a proletarian revolution and the implementation of the first major dictatorship of the proletariat, and in the course of that developing many of the essential principles of proletarian rule.
See also entries below.
“To expound Leninism means to expound the distinctive and new in the works of Lenin that Lenin contributed to the general treasury of Marxism and that is naturally connected with his name.” —Stalin, “The Foundations of Leninism”, lectures delivered at the Sverdlov University, April-May 1924, Works 6:71.
“It is usual to point to the exceptionally militant and exceptionally revolutionary character of Leninism. This is quite correct. But this specific feature of Leninism is due to two causes: firstly, to the fact that Leninism emerged from the proletarian revolution, the imprint of which it cannot but bear; secondly, to the fact that it grew and became strong in clashes with the opportunism of the Second International, the fight against which was and remains an essential preliminary condition for a successful fight against capitalism. It must not be forgotten that between Marx and Engels, on the one hand, and Lenin, on the other, there lies a whole period of undivided domination of the opportunism of the Second International, and the ruthless struggle against this opportunism could not but constitute one of the most important tasks of Leninism.” —Stalin, ibid., Works 6:73-74.
LENINISM — Bourgeois Conception Of
Bourgeois writers often recognize, to some limited degree, some of the elements of Leninism as we revolutionary Marxists understand it. (See entry above.) In particular they often recognize the greatly increased attention Leninism gives to colonial or semi-colonial countries, to the potential role for earlier revolutions that Leninists see there, to the revolutionary potential of the peasantry, and so forth. They sometimes even tie this loosely together with some partial recognition of imperialism (though never as something inherent in modern capitalism!). But the one thing that bourgeois writers most focus on in their discussion of what they call “Leninism”, to the point where everything else is almost totally obscured, is the nature and role of the Leninist party.
This conception of Leninism starts with some actual elements of Lenin’s ideas about a revolutionary party, though it tends to grossly distort or exaggerate them as follows:
1) The working class and masses are presumed to be seldom, if ever, spontaneously revolutionary;
2) The working class is presumed to be only capable of reformist or trade union consciousness on its own;
3) A revolutionary party is viewed as absolutely essential in all circumstances to bring revolutionary ideas to the workers and masses from the outside, and to lead them in a revolutionary direction;
4) This party must be composed of carefully and thoroughly trained, full-time professional revolutionaries;
5) The party must be tightly organized and highly disciplined according to the principles of democratic centralism—which the bourgeois ideologists assume must really be highly authoritarian and totally undemocratic;
6) This party must be viewed as the vanguard of the proletariat, even when it is first formed by a small number of people, because only through its leadership can the masses make revolution;
7) This party, will institute what it calls the “dictatorship of the proletariat” when it achieves power, but this will actually be a dictatorship of the party (and ultimately of the top party leadership) over the masses, and must inevitably operate in a “totalitarian”, fascist manner.
8) And finally, under this bourgeois conception of Leninism, when the party actually is in power in one or more countries, it will be bent on total world conquest.
Well! That is the bourgeois conception of Leninism! This is obviously a total parody of Lenin’s ideas and of genuine Leninism. Points 1 and 2 are already quite exaggerated; Lenin never claimed that there were no spontaneous revolutionary ideas among the masses! He was well aware of the great Paris Commune, for example, which was created by a spontaneous uprising. Lenin only argued that the dominant forms of spontaneity in bourgeois society are indeed reformist in perspective, and that therefore the most class conscious section of the masses, which constitutes itself into a proletarian party, must of course provide leadership for the whole revolutionary movement.
Point 3 is distorted in at least two major ways: First, there are times (such as during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China) when the party has lost its way and must itself be corrected and reconstituted by the revolutionary masses. Second, most of the revolutionary ideas which the party brings to the masses do not really come from “the outside”, but instead from among the masses themselves through the use of Marxist summation and the method of the mass line.
Point 4 is basically true of genuine Leninism; we do seek to build a party whose core, at least, is composed of carefully trained professional revolutionaries. We also insist, however, that this party have very close ties to the masses, that in socialist society (at least) party members also spend substantial time participating in labor, and that the masses keep a close eye upon the party and supervise it, so that it always remains working in their interests! It is also true, as point 5 in the bourgeois conception of Leninism has it, that a Leninist party should be highly organized and highly disciplined. However, a true Leninist party actually takes the democracy aspect of democratic centralism seriously and even insists that democracy must be the principal aspect.
With regard to point 6: There has indeed been a very wrong tendency in many new or small MLM parties, which are not yet even in much contact with the masses in their country, to falsely view themselves as a “vanguard”. A true vanguard is a party that is actually out front and really leading the masses in struggle, and in the direction of social revolution. This is very different than any self-proclaimed miniscule phony “vanguard”.
In point 7 the bourgeois ideologues of course conclude that any dictatorship over their class and their supposed inalienable rights, must in fact be a vicious, totalitarian dictatorship over the people as a whole. But what genuine Leninism (and Marxism!) means by the dictatorship of the proletariat is a society in which the working class and broad masses have full and complete democratic rights, far more so than they have under bourgeois democracy for example. No party which exercises dictatorship over the people is a Leninist party, no matter what it calls itself. Yes, revisionism in power does this (as in Soviet Union from at least the mid-1950s on), but we actual Leninists are deadly opponents of these revisionists.
And finally, with respect to point 8, we Leninists are indeed determined to bring about social revolution everywhere in the world, and create world communism. Of course this is something very different than “world conquest” in the sense the bourgeoisie understands it! Anyway, this is actually nothing new in Leninism; Marx and Engels proclaimed this goal in the Communist Manifesto long before Lenin was even born.
So the bourgeois conception of “Leninism” is a complete distortion of the real thing. It is an almost complete lie and slander of Lenin, which starts from small distortions and builds toward total nonsense. It is true that Leninism does give more emphasis to the leading role of the party than does Marx or Engels, and does have a somewhat different conception of what such a party must be like. But, first, this is a natural development and extension of the ideas of Marx and Engels, and second, this is only one aspect of Leninism as it should be properly understood.
LENINISM — Misconceptions Within the U.S. Revolutionary Movement
In general these are similar to, though perhaps watered-down, versions of the bourgeois conception of “Leninism” we discussed in the entry above. [More to be added... ]
[Particle physics:] Particles which have a quantum spin of ½ and which are unaffected by the strong nuclear force. Electrons, muons and neutrinos are leptons.
“LESSER OF TWO EVILS”
The very naïve but extremely widespread and popular political theory that in elections in bourgeois democratic countries voters should always support the “lesser of two evils”. This doctrine tacitly recognizes that no “serious candidate” (i.e., no candidate of one the dominant capitalist parties who is strongly promoted by a significant part of the ruling class controlled media) will really champion the material interests of the working class and masses, but nevertheless believes that one of them will always be “worthy of support” because he or she is “not as bad as the other one(s)”. The common advice to the working class is: “Hold you nose and vote for the lesser evil.” [In the photo at the right Larry Sabato, a “political science” professor at the University of Virginia demonstrates one possible technique.]
The big problem with supporting the lesser of two evils is that you are still supporting evil. This is why any intelligent instance of supporting the lesser of two evils must at the very least be combined with, and be subbordinated to, a genuine revolutionary program to get rid of all the evils! In some exceptional situation where it might actually be correct to support the lesser of two evils, it will still be critically important not to do this in a way that on balance supports the current capitalist system, or which portrays bourgeois democracy as anything more than the ruling class farce that it is.
The dogma that people should always (or at least generally) support the “lesser of two evils” is the mantra of bourgeois democracy, and is one of the most powerful props of the capitalist-imperialist system today. The best way to get the masses to continue to support a viciously evil and exploitative social system is to hide from them the fundamental fact that it is an essentially unified single system, and, instead, to portray the system as providing two (or more) “very different” political options between which the people have a real democratic choice. (Even that part is phony, since it is the ruling class media which generally determines the election outcome.) Thus an integral part of the bourgeois electoral process is always to grossly exaggerate the actual small differences between the candidates, and to make the choice seem to be one of “night or day”. This makes the “lesser of two evils” argument sound more compelling.
The principle of supporting the lesser of two evils is a very negative but powerful “intuition pump” to get the unruly masses to stay within the acceptable bounds the ruling class has set for them. Bourgeois democracy is not just a phony system, it is a downright brilliantly manipulative system from the point of view of maintaining the capitalist ruling class in power (despite their tiny numbers). By allowing the masses to have a small voice in deciding between issues on which the ruling class itself is not in complete agreement, they sucker the masses into thinking they govern the society. By getting the masses to focus on supporting the “lesser of two evils” they still get them to support a bourgeois candidate and “to work within the system”—rather than raising hell in the streets and turning to revolution.
Translated into plain language (which of course the ruling class will never do itself) their electorial campaign barker is saying this: “Alright, suckers, step right up here and select one of my two candidates who I am graciously allowing you to pick between. I’ve been emphasizing their tiny differences so you’ll think you have a very important choice to make. And if you don’t like either one of them, well then vote for the lesser of the two evils. I’m big enough to allow you to make the final choice, as long as you stay within my tent.”
One additional reason that the “lesser of two evils” argument is so popular in bourgeois society is that it helps liberals and “progressives” assuage their guilty consciences by allowing them to convince themselves that “at least they are doing something”. As if supporting and voting for any bourgeois candidate was really doing much of anything of real importance. This internal justification helps excuse them from opposing the system, which they themselves often admit is evil, in any really serious way.
LEVÉE EN MASSE
A mass uprising, but specifically against a foreign army occupying a country. In other words a levée en masse is not the same as an ordinary insurrection of the people against its own rulers.
Among the levées en masse in history we might include some of the uprisings encouraged by Napolean as a means of national defence against invading armies, various uprisings in Poland during the 19th century, the Warsaw uprising in the early days of the Nazi invasion, and some of the revolts in Eastern European countries against the Soviet social-imperialist occupation and control during the post-World War II period.
LEVERAGE [Capitalist Financial Speculation]
Arranging things so that a given amount of investment will return as much as a considerably larger investment would normally require. This usually involves using borrowed money to amplify a personal investment. If a speculator is investing $10,000 of his own money and $90,000 of borrowed money then his return will be ten times what it would otherwise be (less the cost of borrowing the $90,000). Of course any losses would also be amplified by a factor of ten!
Thus leverage is usually viewed as a measure of how much debt is used to purchase assets. For instance, a leverage ratio of 7:1 means that for every $7 of assets purchased, $6 came from borrowed money and just $1 came from the investor/speculator’s own money.
See also: DELEVERAGING
LÉVI-STRAUSS, Claude (1908-2009)
A prominent bourgeois anthropologist and sociologist, often considered in academic circles to be the “father” of modern anthropology. He was influenced by linguistics, geology, Freudian psychoanalysis and possibly to some limited extent by Marxism (as he himself claimed). He introduced the concepts of “structuralism” from linguistics and geology into anthropology and sociology, where it became an intellectual fad for a short period.
One aspect of “structuralism” in anthropology, as Lévi-Strauss understood it, was that all societies follow certain universal patterns of thought and behavior. This is the sort of principle that obviously has some validity to it, but which can easily be pushed to unreasonable extremes. A progressive aspect of this way of looking at human culture is that it opposed the traditional attitudes towards native peoples as being biologically “primitive” and having “savage” or “primitive” mental capabilities. A less positive aspect of this way of looking at culture is that it tended to lead to the “postmodern” idea that all worldviews are “equally valid”, and that more modern forms of society are not really more advanced than those of primitive societies. While it is true that the people in hunter-gatherer society, for example, are not biologically primitive, their societies definitely are primitive, and their traditional conceptions of the world are also definitely primitive as compared with a modern scientific outlook.
Lévi-Strauss not only had a great influence within anthropology and sociology, he also influenced the intellectual and academic communities in general, especially in literary theory and Continental philosophy. Unfortunately, this influence proved to be mostly negative.
The branch of linguistics concerned with determining the meaning of words, and with developing the appropriate scientific techniques for doing this.
See also: MEANING OF A WORD
An acronym which refers to people who are lesbian, gay (homosexual), bisexual or transgender.
A recent (early 2013) Gallup poll of more than 200,000 Americans found that 3.5% of the population identifies as being within this group of people.
In class society there has long been tremendous oppression and mistreatment by the authorities and by the rest of the populace against LGBT people, including even outright murder of them. In recent decades there have been some positive changes in the attitudes of people in most advanced capitalist countries in this regard, but LGBT people still suffer great inequality and mistreatment even in the more enlightened countries. Of course, where there is oppression there is resistence, and the struggle for LGBT rights has already become substantial in many countries.
Variations on this acronym include: LGBTQ (which includes people who prefer to identify themselves as queer); LGBTQQ (which further includes people who are questioning their own gender identity); and LGBTI (which includes intersex individuals, i.e. those with a physical combination of both male and female genitalia).
“LGBT is an initialism that collectively refers to the lesbian, gay, bisexual,
and transgender community. In use since the 1990s, the term LGBT is an adaptation of the
initialism LGB, which itself started replacing the phrase gay community beginning in the
mid-to-late 1980s, which many within the community in question felt did not accurately represent
all those to whom it referred. The initialism has become mainstream as a self-designation and
has been adopted by the majority of sexuality and gender identity-based community centers and
media in the United States and some other English-speaking countries.
“The term LGBT is intended to emphasize a diversity of sexuality and gender identity-based cultures and is sometimes used to refer to anyone who is non-heterosexual or non-cisgender instead of exclusively to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. To recognize this inclusion, a popular variant adds the letter Q for those who identify as queer and/or are questioning their sexual identity as LGBTQ, recorded since 1996.” —Wikipedia entry for ‘LGBT’ (accessed March 17, 2013).
Daily newspaper founded by Jean Jaurès in 1904 as the organ of the French Socialist Party. During World War I the newspaper was under the control of the Right wing of the Party and took a social-chauvinist stand in support of its own bourgeoisie. At the Tours Congress in 1920 the Party split, the Communist Party of France (PCF) was formed, and L’Humanité became the official central organ of the PCF. By the mid-1930s the PCF had clearly become a revisionist party, and of course it and its newspaper have remained revisionist ever since.
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