Lenin yesterday, today, tomorrow

By Georges Gastaud

Gastaud is a retired teacher, union militant and for nearly two decades the general secretary of the Pole for the Rebirth of Communism in France, the PRCF. His message to the Lenin Centennial, held in New York City on Jan. 21, follows:

In 2024, we commemorate the untimely death of the greatest revolutionary of all time. 

Naturally, the world’s anti-communist and anti-Soviet chorus will storm against his memory. Russian reactionaries will once again attempt to expel his body from Red Square; revisionists and social democrats of all stripes — “socialists in word, imperialists in deed” — as [Vladimir Ilyich Lenin] mockingly put it — will declare Leninism “obsolete and outdated.” 

All kinds of sectarian groups, cut off from workers, will try to appropriate this giant of history who developed Marx and Engels’ scientific work, organized the Bolshevik Party, led to victory the proletarian Revolution, founded the Soviet Union and created, from this, the Communist International. A giant, which we so lack today to victoriously counter unleashed imperialism.

But as the very materialist Lenin said, “facts are stubborn things,” and all the revisionists, all the deniers of history — past, present and future — will be unable to prevent what existed from having taken place, and counter-revolutions can never erase revolutions from history. 

Just as my country, France, has never reverted to the Ancien Régime [monarchy], despite the royalists’ relentless slander of [the revolutionary leaders of 1789] like Marat and Robespierre, the French Revolution and the Communards, so too advanced human beings everywhere can never forget that Bolshevism brought a victory of worldwide proportions to our class.

They can never forget that, for over 70 years, the first socialist experiment in history held firm despite the ups and downs, and sometimes the dead ends, the deviations and the final betrayal. Nor that the global balance of forces between Labor and Capital, between oppressed peoples and imperialism, was durably modified to the advantage of the “Wretched of the Earth” by the October 1917 Revolution, then by [the 1943 victory over Nazi Germany in] Stalingrad, then by the Chinese, Cuban and Vietnamese revolutions. 

Proof a contrario, of the validity of Leninism: Big business and imperialism have temporarily regained the upper hand since the Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic were destroyed from within by counter-revolutionaries and revisionists, supported and steered from the outside by North American imperialism and vengeful German imperialism, united against history’s first socialist experiment.

Of course, we need to critically analyze what went wrong with this first experiment, or who led it astray under all kinds of internal and external pressures and constraints, creating fertile ground for counter-revolution. But to do this, we must rely on the Leninist tool, and not give in to the defeatist sirens of the neo-Menshevist left, always ready to rally to the imperialist camp on the pretext of “renovating socialism” and pandering to the ideological whims of the day. 

Our strongly held conviction, which we cannot go into here, is that it was not because of an excess of Leninism, of the dictatorship of the proletariat, of proletarian internationalism, of democratically disciplined communist organization, that the USSR was finally defeated, but quite the contrary, because of a lack of Leninism, the label of which was too long and too dogmatically brandished at the very moment when its living content, the “concrete analysis of the concrete situation,” was emptied of its substance. 

Reading Lenin’s works is still necessary.

Read and reread Lenin

Reread “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism,” and you will see that this text speaks to us almost prophetically of the current situation. 

Reread “What is to be Done?” and you will find many keys, if you know how to constantly go back and forth between concepts and moving reality, to pull the global left, today dominated by a whining petty-bourgeoisie, out of its endless string of defeats. 

Reread “The State and Revolution,” and you’ll find guidelines for successfully linking democratic struggles with socialist tasks and for ensuring that the construction of socialism remains focused at all times on the ultimate goal of communism, the classless society in which “the development of each is the key to the development of all.” (Karl Marx). 

Re-read “Materialism and Empirio-criticism,” Lenin’s notebooks on “Hegel’s Dialectics,” and you will see how necessary it is today to reactivate and relaunch dialectical materialism in order to think through the scientific, mathematical, physical-cosmological, bio-environmental and anthropological revolutions of our time, to re-found a scientific and progressive conception of the world capable of confronting the obscurantism of today’s fascistic capitalist societies and to build a new progressive cultural hegemony offering an ideological framework conducive to future revolutions.

Comrades from the USA, dear and fraternal friends, this is how the historical dialectic goes: You live in the heart of the most dangerous imperialist country on the planet and for the planet, but you also live in the country where the proletariat, be it that of John Deere, Amazon or Chrysler-Stellantis, has just launched an anti-capitalist counter-attack of worldwide scope. 

And at the same time, Indian workers and peasants, led by Leninist communists, led the biggest strikes in history in 2022, blockading Delhi and forcing reactionary Modi to withdraw a grossly anti-people law. 

In neighboring Mexico, striking maquiladora workers shook off the dictatorship of the sell-out unions by the hundreds of thousands. 

In France, the Emmanuel Macron regime is increasingly reduced to flirting with the hard right and far right on openly xenophobic grounds and multiplying liberty-killing laws to deal with successive popular movements which, from the Yellow Vests to refinery and energy workers fighting for pensions, have twice paralyzed the country. 

In Great Britain and Bangladesh, major strikes have taken place, and in neighboring Quebec, public service workers, who link their struggles to the aspirations of the French-speaking people to respect for their culture and language, have achieved real successes. In short, the world proletariat is raising its head after nearly four decades of setbacks, counter-revolutions and counter-reforms. 

The main enemy is at home

On another level, the South of the planet and the global East can no longer stand the racist and neo-colonial supremacism of this “global North-West,” of which the European Union is the European pillar, and is confronting the EU-NATO bloc which, allied with open Nazis swarming in Kiev and the Baltic states, is the main enemy of all peoples, including the peoples of Europe and North America. 

This is not to idealize Vladimir Putin’s counter-revolutionary regime, nor to deny the class contradictions that exist in People’s China, but simply to remember the “revolutionary defeatism” advocated by Lenin in 1914 and summed up by his German comrade Karl Liebknecht in the brilliant phrase: “The main enemy is in your own country.” 

For it is our conviction that capitalism has become so reactionary that, in our time, what we call “exterminism” has become the supreme stage of capitalism-imperialism-hegemonism, with its globalized procession of destruction of social gains, political reaction and fascistization, obscurantism and the return of the worst religious fundamentalisms, as well as the destruction of national sovereignties. 

But this is only one side of the question, and dialectically we must see that this situation enables and also demands more than ever the unity of proletarians of all countries; it demands the unity of the fight for democracy, for the sovereignty of peoples, for their free cooperation freed from blind and destructive competition. We must fight for the proletariat, worldwide and country by country, to become the heart and ardent focus of a revolution uniting all those who want humanity to go on and life to triumph over death and the absurdity brought about by capitalist exploitation and imperial oppression. 

We no longer have a choice: Either humanity will be led by the system to a form of global Gaza, be it a war of extermination risking human extinction to prolong imperialist hegemonism and supremacism at all costs, or the slow agony of the living guaranteed by the destruction of nature caused by the cult of maximum profit; or humanity once again will take the path of national and social emancipation, understanding the full Leninist and truly anti-exterminationist significance of the slogan dear to Ché and Fidel Castro: “Homeland(s) or death, socialism or death, we shall overcome.” 

And this is why Leninism, whose bright red heart is to give the proletariat the political and trade-union tools it needs to unite the people, and all peoples, against destructive capital; this is why Leninism remains the revolutionary horizon, or better, why it remains the vital and rational horizon of our times.

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