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Vladimir Lenin - Colby jpgordon/LeninReadings.pdf Vladimir Lenin 1. The Proletarian Party Since there can be no talk of an independent ideology formulated by the working masses themselves

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  • Vladimir Lenin

    1. The Proletarian Party

    Since there can be no talk of an independent ideology formulated by the working masses

    themselves in the process of their movement,1 the only choice is – either bourgeois or socialist

    ideology. There is no middle course (for mankind has not created a “third” ideology, and,

    moreover, in a society torn by class antagonisms there can never be a non-class or an above-class

    ideology). Hence, to belittle the socialist ideology in any way, to turn aside from it in the slightest

    degree means to strengthen bourgeois ideology. There is much talk of spontaneity. But the

    spontaneous development of the working-class movement leads to its subordination to bourgeois

    ideology, to its development along the lines of the Credo programme; for the spontaneous

    working-class movement is trade-unionism, is Nur-Gewerkschaftlerei, and trade unionism means

    the ideological enslavement of the workers by the bourgeoisie. Hence, our task, the task of

    Social-Democracy, is to combat spontaneity, to divert the working-class movement from this

    spontaneous, trade-unionist striving to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie, and to bring it

    under the wing of revolutionary Social Democracy…

    We have seen that the conduct of the broadest political agitation and, consequently, of

    all-sided political exposures is an absolutely necessary and a paramount task of our activity, if

    this activity is to be truly Social-Democratic. However, we arrived at this conclusion solely on the

    grounds of the pressing needs of the working class for political knowledge and political training.

    But such a presentation of the question is too narrow, for it ignores the general democratic tasks

    of Social-Democracy, in particular of present-day Russian Social-Democracy. In order to explain

    the point more concretely we shall approach the subject from an aspect that is “nearest” to the

    Economist, namely, from the practical aspect. “Everyone agrees” that it is necessary to develop

    the political consciousness of the working class. The question is, how that is to be done and what

    is required to do it. The economic struggle merely “impels” the workers to realise the 1 This does not mean, of course, that the workers have no part in creating such an ideology. They take part, however, not as workers, but as socialist theoreticians, as Proudhons and Weitlings; in other words, they take part only when they are able, and to the extent that they are able, more or less, to acquire the knowledge of their age and develop that knowledge. But in order that working men may succeed in this more often, every effort must be made to raise the level of the consciousness of the workers in general; it is necessary that the workers do not confine themselves to the artificially restricted limits of “literature for workers” but that they learn to an increasing degree to master general literature. It would be even truer to say “are not confined”, instead of “do not confine themselves”, because the workers themselves wish to read and do read all that is written for the intelligentsia, and only a few (bad) intellectuals believe that it is enough “for workers” to be told a few things about factory conditions and to have repeated to them over and over again what has long been known. —Lenin

  • government’s attitude towards the working class. Consequently, however much we may try to

    “lend the economic, struggle itself a political character”, we shall never be able to develop the

    political consciousness of the workers (to the level of Social-Democratic political consciousness)

    by keeping within the framework of the economic struggle, for that framework is too narrow…

    Class political consciousness can be brought to the workers only from without, that is,

    only from outside the economic struggle, from outside the sphere of relations between workers

    and employers. The sphere from which alone it is possible to obtain this knowledge is the sphere

    of relationships of all classes and strata to the state and the government, the sphere of the

    interrelations between all classes. For that reason, the reply to the question as to what must be

    done to bring political knowledge to the workers cannot be merely the answer with which, in the

    majority of cases, the practical workers, especially those inclined towards Economism, mostly

    content themselves, namely: “To go among the workers.” To bring political knowledge to the

    workers the Social Democrats must go among all classes of the population; they must dispatch

    units of their army in all directions.

    We deliberately select this blunt formula, we deliberately express ourselves in this

    sharply simplified manner, not because we desire to indulge in paradoxes, but in order to “impel”

    the Economists to a realisation of their tasks which they unpardonably ignore, to suggest to them

    strongly the difference between trade-unionist and Social-Democratic politics, which they refuse

    to understand. We therefore beg the reader not to get wrought up, but to hear us patiently to the


    Let us take the type of Social-Democratic study circle that has become most widespread

    in the past few years and examine its work. It has “contacts with the workers” and rests content

    with this, issuing leaflets in which abuses in the factories, the government’s partiality towards the

    capitalists, and the tyranny of the police are strongly condemned. At workers’ meetings the

    discussions never, or rarely ever, go beyond the limits of these subjects. Extremely rare are the

    lectures and discussions held on the history of the revolutionary movement, on questions of the

    government’s home and foreign policy, on questions of the economic evolution of Russia and of

    Europe, on the position of the various classes in modern society, etc. As to systematically

    acquiring and extending contact with other classes of society, no one even dreams of that. In fact,

    the ideal leader, as the majority of the members of such circles picture him, is something far more

    in the nature of a trade union secretary than a socialist political leader. For the secretary of any,

  • say English, trade union always helps the workers to carry on the economic struggle, he helps

    them to expose factory abuses, explains the injustice of the laws and of measures that hamper the

    freedom to strike and to picket (i. e., to warn all and sundry that a strike is proceeding at a certain

    factory), explains the partiality of arbitration court judges who belong to the bourgeois classes,

    etc., etc. In a word, every trade union secretary conducts and helps to conduct “the economic

    struggle against the employers and the government”. It cannot be too strongly maintained that this

    is still not Social-Democracy, that the Social-Democrat’s ideal should not be the trade union

    secretary, but the tribune of the people, who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and

    oppression, no matter where it appears, no matter what stratum or class of the people it affects;

    who is able to generalise all these manifestations and produce a single picture of police violence

    and capitalist exploitation; who is able to take advantage of every event, however small, in order

    to set forth before all his socialist convictions and his democratic demands, in order to clarify for

    all and everyone the world-historic significance of the struggle for the emancipation of the


    As I have stated repeatedly, by “wise men”, in connection with organisation, I mean professional

    revolutionaries, irrespective of whether they have developed from among students or working

    men. I assert: (1) that no revolutionary movement can endure without a stable organisation of

    leaders maintaining continuity; (2) that the broader the popular mass drawn spontaneously into

    the struggle, which forms the basis of the movement and participates in it, the more urgent the

    need for such an organisation, and the more solid this organisation must be (for it is much easier

    for all sorts of demagogues to side-track the more backward sections of the masses); (3) that such

    an organisation must consist chiefly of people professionally engaged in revolutionary activity;

    (4) that in an autocratic state, the more we confine the membership of such an organisation to

    people who are professionally engaged in revolutionary activity and who have been

    professionally trained in the art of combating the political police, the more difficult will it be to

    unearth the organisation; and (5) the greater will be the number of people from the working class

    and from the other social classes who will be able to join the movement and perform active work

    in it.

    I invite our Economists, terrorists, and “Economists-terrorists”[9] to confute these

    propositions. At the moment, I shall deal only with the last two points. The question as to

    whether it is easier to wipe out “a dozen wisemen” or “a hundred fools” reduces itself to the

    question, above considered, whether it is possible to have a mass organisation when the

    maintenance of strict secrecy is essential. We can never give a mass organisation that degree of