Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

May 27, 2016

Party, class, and Marxism: Did Kautsky advocate ‘Leninism’?

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 10:30 pm

John Riddell

By Eric Blanc. (Eric Blanc is an activist and historian based in Oakland, California. For the text of the Kautsky article discussed here, see “Karl Kautsky: Sects or class parties”.)

Karl Kautsky Karl Kautsky

The question of broad parties has been heatedly debated by socialists in recent years. Many have argued that “Leninism” should be discarded in favor of wider formations such as Syriza, Podemos, the British Labour Party, the Greens, etc. Others have rejected participating in such structures, on the “Leninist” grounds that building independent revolutionary Marxist parties remains the strategic organizational task for socialists.

Intertwined with this debate has been a serious reassessment of “Leninism” itself. Particularly following the publication of Lars Lih’s monumental Lenin Rediscovered, big questions are being asked: Did Lenin break in theory and/or practice with the “orthodox” strategy articulated by Marxist theoretician Karl Kautsky? Were the Bolsheviks, in other words, a “party…

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  1. For Kautsky’s view on mass action check this recent translation of his interesting article from 1911: https://libcom.org/library/action-mass-karl-kautsky

    And Kautsky’s subsequent defense (and counter-critique) against Pannekoek the next year (famous from Lenin’s commentary in State and Revolution): https://libcom.org/library/new-tactic-karl-kautsky

    Comment by Rodman — May 29, 2016 @ 1:34 pm

  2. ,, Many have argued that “Leninism” should be discarded in favor of wider formations such as Syriza, Podemos, the British Labour Party, the Greens, etc. ”

    Because that’s worked out well everywhere it has been tried eh? Right now the ,, broad left ” socialist party is jamming austerity down the throats of French workers, the so called workers party in Brazil is in hot water for corruption and thievery, the Canadian left leader is locking people up for smoking weed and ,, socialist ” Bernie Sanders is lining his supporters up behind the corrupt, murderous, strike breaking Clinton clique.

    Comment by Lacorque — May 29, 2016 @ 11:29 pm

  3. The SP in France is not a “broad left” party. It is not even a socialist party in reformist terms. It is a bourgeois party, period. There have been two notable attempts to build such parties in France, the NPA and the Left Front. Neither have made any breakthroughs but they are promising initial first steps.

    Comment by louisproyect — May 30, 2016 @ 12:02 am

  4. Eric Blanc’s opposition of ‘Leninism’ to “wider formations such as Syriza, Podemos, the British Labour Party, the Greens, etc.” indicates that, whatever the merits of the article to follow, he may be misunderstanding the whole decade-or-more strategic debate. On the one hand the characterisation – albeit with quotation marks – of one side as “Leninism”, when many on both sides consider themselves to be students of the authentic Lenin. A minor quibble. But then he categorises the other side within the same bracket as formations which were never radical to begin with: the British Labour Party, the Greens (in Ireland anyway). Or which have left, or threaten to leave, the radical ground they once stood on (Syriza and Podemos). A glance at the literature of the ‘broad party’ protagonists (e.g. ‘New Parties of the Left: Experiences from Europe’ – Bensaid, etc., Resistance Books, London 2011) will show the parties of interest to the ‘broad party’ side to be, or to have been, radical left formations, or pluralist parties with radical left currents, such as New Anti-capitalist Party (Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste) and the Parti de Gauche in France, the Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) in Denmark, Respect in Britain, The Left (Die Linke) in Germany, the Left Bloc (Bloco de Esquerda) in Portugal, Izquierda Unida (Spain), the Scottish Socialist Party and the United Left Alliance (Ireland). And, yes and especially, the pre-capitulation Syriza (and earlier the Partito della Rifondazione Comunista in Italy). Podemos still, of course, with reservations.

    Comment by DD — May 31, 2016 @ 7:50 pm

  5. It seems that Eric was a member of the Socialist Organizer at one point, the Lambertistes in the USA. I have a feeling he has left the group but maybe some of their “Leninism” lingers on. I plan to respond to this article and Lars Lih’s commentary on it tomorrow.

    Comment by louisproyect — May 31, 2016 @ 8:08 pm

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