Saturday, January 27, 2024

Vladimir Lenin: Lodestar of Revolutionary Advance For Human Emancipation

By Sitaram Yechury*

In a short span of 54 years, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin left an inerasable imprint for the advance of the global proletarian revolution.  He not only mastered the essence of the creative science of Marxism, but updated it to his contemporary times and led the Russian Revolution to victory leading to the establishment of the first socialist country in the world – the USSR.  

He enriched Marxism combating all forms of deviations and protected the revolutionary movement from derailment. He was a master tactician adopting correct and appropriate tactics for every twist and turn of the revolutionary movement.  

He was a Marxist theoretician, strategist and a tactician par excellence. His contributions merit a continuous study in order to advance the revolutionary movement globally and in every country in the world.


Leading the triumphant Russian Revolution – the Great October Socialist Revolution – Lenin demonstrated the practical realisation of Marx’s famous exhortation: “Philosophers have often interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it”.

Lenin was able to lead such a changing of the world by comprehensively mastering Marxism, its scientific method, creative potential and its world outlook.  Often, these aspects of his unique and pioneering contributions to the treasure house of Marxism are taken up separately for a deeper understanding. Many have studied various important works of Lenin like the `State and Revolution’, or, `Two Tactics of Social Democracy’, or, `What is to be Done’, or, `Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism’ etc etc.

This, of course, is important, absolutely important.  Each one of these works must be properly understood and its essence grasped by every revolutionary in order to carry forward the battle for complete human emancipation in today’s conditions. But it is equally important to also understand why Lenin undertook these works, at particular points in the twists and turns of the Russian Revolution and the world proletarian movement.

Let us put together two formulations that Lenin had made regarding Marxism which, I think, helps us in understanding his supreme internalisation of this creative science.  First, he had said in `Who the friends of the people are…’, that “hundreds of thousands of working people  are attracted to Marxism because it is the only philosophy that combines two aspects, at the same time, i.e., being revolutionary and supremely scientific.  This is not combined because its founders combined both these aspects in their own life. Marxism combines them integrally and intrinsically”.    Secondly, Lenin underlined that “The most essential thing in Marxism, the living soul of Marxism, is the concrete analysis of concrete conditions”. 

It is through the combination of both these aspects of Marxism – revolutionary and supremely scientific – that the revolutionary objective of human liberation can be realised. Any overemphasis on one and underemphasis of the other can lead to deviations.  Ignoring the revolutionary potential and only concentrating on a scientific analysis of the situation will invariably lead to reformism. Ignoring the scientific evaluation of the situation and resorting to only revolutionary sloganeering will lead to a Left adventurist deviation.  In order to steer clear of such deviations, the proper combination of both these attributes is essential.

`Concrete analysis of concrete conditions’ requires an objective assessment of the concrete conditions and to draw the correct revolutionary analysis on that basis.  An incorrect estimation of the concrete conditions based on subjective considerations will lead to faulty and erroneous political analysis and can derail the revolutionary movement. Hence, the ability of a revolutionary to objectively assess the concrete conditions and from there proceed to analyse by combining the above two attributes of Marxism, is the foundation on the basis of which the revolutionary movement can advance.  Even when the estimation is correctly drawn followed by a proper analysis and evolution of the correct political-tactical line to be pursued by the revolutionary movement, the translation of this political correctness into practice will depend on the strength of the Party organisation. As Stalin had once famously said, following from Lenin, that even when the political line is hundred per cent correct, it has little effect without an organisation capable of carrying this political line to the people.  Party organisation, its capacities and capabilities, thus, play a crucial role in advancing the revolutionary movement – the `subjective factor’ of the revolution, as Lenin calls it.

On all these aspects, Lenin relentlessly fought against all deviations of both varieties, reformism and Left adventurism (which he called, `an infantile disorder’). In order to demolish each one of these deviations and to steer clear from adopting a wrong direction, at crucial junctures of revolutionary advance, he wrote his monumental works clarifying to the working class movement the correct way to move forward.  He had to ideologically fight and combat many an accepted leader of the working class movement, of his time, in order to steer a clear direction for the revolutionary movement, leading it ultimately to its triumph. 


By correctly understanding Marx and Marxism, Lenin realised that no revolution, including the Russian Revolution, can succeed without a proper analysis of global developments and contradictions along with the analysis of domestic conditions and its contradictions. 

Following the developments in capitalism at the global level, Lenin, on the basis of Marx’s dissection of capitalism and its tendencies, noted that the tendency of centralisation and concentration of capital, as capitalism develops, has reached new levels, leading to a qualitative change.  Marx, towards the end of his time, had noted the trends of monopoly capitalism which, subsequently, Engels incorporated into Marx’s posthumous publication of Capital, Vol. 3.  Lenin noted that, at the beginning of the 20th century, the development of monopoly capitalism had reached the levels of global enslavement by the rule of capital – the stage of imperialism.  Lenin categorised this stage as the highest stage of capitalism. The consequent contradictions that imperialism generated were properly assessed and analysed by Lenin to note that capitalism in the imperialist stage had enchained the world and inter-imperialist contradictions must be utilised to break this imperialist chain at its weakest link which, at that time in human history, was Russia.  He gave the call to convert the inter-imperialist war (ongoing First World War) into a civil war advancing the slogan of peace, bread and land to the Russian people.  On the basis of such concrete analysis of concrete conditions, Lenin led the Russian revolutionary movement to its eventual triumph in the October 1917 revolution. 

The Leninist understanding of imperialism, its analysis and the emergence of inter-imperialist contradictions was resoundingly vindicated with the outbreak of the Second World War, where these contradictions led to the quest for a new global re-ordering spearheaded by Germany.  The utilisation of inter-imperialist contradictions resulted eventually in the defeat of the fascism and the liberation of Eastern Europe. This also ushered in a qualitatively new phase of welfare capitalism in response to the international correlation of class forces which moved in favour of socialism. 

Today, when we call ourselves as a Marxist-Leninist party, we do so consciously due to the manner in which Lenin enriched Marxism in all aspects – fighting all forms of deviation, reformist and Left adventurist; the tactics for mobilising all sections of the exploited classes with its axis being the worker-peasant alliance; the building of a party of the working class capable of intervening in the concrete situation on the basis of the concrete analysis to shape the course of history towards human liberation and the appropriate tactics required to advance the revolutionary movement.  Stalin defined Leninism as “Marxism in the era of imperialism”.


Lenin was the leader of the world proletarian revolution. He realised that the triumph of socialism in Russia and the formation of the USSR provided the impetus for advancing the revolutionary movement against imperialism globally.  It was with this understanding that the Communist International assisted the formation of Communist parties in almost all countries of the world and, most importantly, linking the domestic people’s struggles with the global struggle against imperialism.  Lenin’s theses on the `National and Colonial Question’ laid the foundations for integrating the national liberation struggles in all colonial countries with the global struggle against imperialism.

This thesis had a profound impact on the national liberation and anti-colonial struggles, the world over.  Such was the impact that it led to history changing advances of the revolutionary movement.  This impact is sharply revealed by the reaction of Ho Chi Minh who, living in France, was distributing pamphlets denouncing the crimes committed by the French colonialists in Vietnam:

“At that time, I supported the October Revolution only instinctively, not yet grasping all its historic importance. I loved and admired Lenin because he was a great patriot who liberated his compatriots; until then, I had read none of his books…

(Then) a comrade gave me Lenin’s “Thesis on the national and colonial questions” published by l'Humanite to read. There were political terms difficult to understand in this thesis. But by dint of reading it again and again, finally I could grasp the main part of it. What emotion, enthusiasm, clear-sightedness and confidence it instilled into me! I was overjoyed to tears. Though sitting alone in my room, I shouted out aloud as if addressing large crowds: “Dear martyrs compatriots! This is what we need, this is the path to our liberation!”  (The Path Which Led Me to Leninism’, 1960, Selected Works of Ho Chi Minh, Vol. IV.) 

Lenin established the University for the Toilers of the East.  Many a revolutionary from across the world steeled themselves both in theory and practice and returned to their countries to strengthen the revolutionary movement. Hence, Lenin played the pioneering role in cementing the international solidarity of the working class movement – Communist Internationalism – `Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains’.


Capitalism never collapses automatically. It requires to be overthrown. This decisively depends on the strengthening of that material force in society led by the working class which can mount, through popular struggles, the intensification of the class struggle to launch the political offensive against the rule of capital. The building of this material force and its strength is the ‘subjective factor’, the strengthening of which is an essential imperative. The objective factor – the concrete conditions of the crisis – however conducive they may be for a revolutionary advance, cannot be transformed into a revolutionary assault against the rule of capital without the strengthening of this ‘subjective factor’.

Various intermediary slogans, measures and tactics will have to be employed by the working class to sharpen class struggles and to meet the challenges of these real conditions in order to strengthen the ‘subjective factor’ and, thus, advance the process of revolutionary transformation in their respective countries.


In order to advance this process and the appropriate tactics needed, again, Lenin’s teachings and practice provides guidance.  Late M Basavapunnaiah, on the occasion of Lenin’s birth centenary, had written an article in the People’s Democracy titled `Master tactician of the working class in its Struggle for political power and its consolidation’.  Most often, many do not pay attention to the tactical genius of Lenin and how he worked out correct tactics at every turn of events leading to the triumph of the Russian Revolution.  At the global level, he gave the direction for the tactics to be adopted to advance the world revolutionary movement against imperialism.

Stalin, in Foundations of Leninism, summarises Lenin’s tactical principles as being based on: (1) national peculiarities and characteristics, (2) utilising the smallest possibilities of acquiring allies for the proletariat, even if they are temporary, vacillating, wavering or unreliable, for advancing the revolutionary struggle (3)  truth that propaganda and agitation alone are not sufficient for political education as the practical political experience of the masses.


In order to advance in this direction, in the current Indian situation, the immediate task is to isolate and defeat the BJP, sever its control over State power that it utilises to destroy the Indian Constitution and transform the secular democratic republic into the RSS vision of a rabidly intolerant, fascistic “Hindutva Rashtra”. To achieve this, appropriate tactics, based on Leninist principles of revolutionary tactics, must be adopted.

Long Live Lenin!

* General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)