Leninism is not really the summary of Lenin’s own ideas, as expounded in his various writings. Nor is it his practices as a leader of the CPSU and of the Soviet Union.
It is a strategy
of ruling a country. As such,
Leninism is practiced in many countries
under other names, or under no name at all.
Leninism. Six features
Leninism seems to me to be a
comprising the combination of six characteristics.
(1). It is the practice of a party/movement that believes
it must obtain state power,
one way or another — and once in power, to remain there, one way or another. Without state power, this party/movement believes nothing can be accomplished. Leninism thus rejects any and all versions of anarchist strategies, which have also re-emerged in the wake of the death of Marxism-Leninism.
(2). Once the party/movement has achieved power,
its most immediate goal is to strengthen the state apparatus.
The object is to insulate the state structure in two directions — both against internal dissidents and decentralizing forces and against the ability of external forces to constrain the state’s ability to pursue its objectives. This might be called increasing the degree to which the state is sovereign, not theoretically but in practice.
(3). The party/movement is
organized as a hierarchical structure,
which operates with a top-down control mechanism. It therefore seeks to impede any and all horizontal links of local and middle-level structures, even those located within the party/movement. This is the crucial feature that leads some analysts to denounce Leninism as undemocratic, or at least one not fulﬁlling the standard formal processes of a multiparty electoral system with alternating governing parties.
(4). The primary policy objective is not, as often alleged, the retention of power for its own sake by the regime’s rulers.
The primary policy objective is catch-up economic growth, as measured on a comparative world scale.
All other concerns are subordinated to the primacy of economic growth. That is to say, there are other concerns to be sure — for example, pursuit of a sensible policy vis-a`-vis the environment — but such other concerns come second in order of priority.
(5). Ideologically, the party/movement presents itself, indeed thinks of itself, as
a bulwark of anti-imperialism.
This is its language when talking to its own citizens, at least most of the time. When talking to the rest of the world, anti-imperialist language is used when it is diplomatically useful. Since, however, anti-imperialist rhetoric is an indispensable theme in the composite framework of Leninism, Leninism cannot exist in states at the top of the world’s geopolitical power structure.
(6). The practice of the party/movement in power is
fundamentally pragmatic, never dogmatic.
The party/movement will amend its practice whenever this is deemed necessary to maintain the party/movement in power. It is pragmatic even about the question of whether it is more useful to avow publicly that it is pragmatic than it is to deny it.
I call such party/movements Leninism only when all six features are there. It is the combination of all six features that makes Leninism such an effective mode of regime maintenance.
Sometimes, after a military coup, the new regime presents its rule as equivalent to that of a party/movement. Indeed, it may try to create a new party/movement that it controls. This form, however, seems to gain less legitimacy than the normal Leninist party/movement. There are however party/movements within which the military gains considerable autonomy and in which the military assumes important economic functions.
capitalists are no longer going to be interested in capitalism
because it doesn’t work for them anymore. They are therefore already
looking around for serious alternatives
in which they can maintain their privileged position in a different kind of system.