Thursday, June 14, 2007

Paul Le Blanc: Lenin's Return

Lenin Rediscovered: ‘What Is to Be Done?’ in Context, by Lars T. Lih. Leidin/Boston: Brill, 2006, 867 pages, including index. Hardcover $181.00.
James P. Cannon and the Origins of the American Revolutionary Left, 1890-1928, by Bryan D. Palmer. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2007. 542 pages,including index. Hardcover $50.00.
Lenin Reloaded: Toward a Politics of Truth, edited by Sebastian Budgen, Stathis Kouvelakis, and Slavoj Žižek. Durham: Duke University Press, 2007. 337 pages, including index. Hardcover $84.95, softcover $29.95.

By Paul Le Blanc
About 40 years ago, my great-uncle (now long dead) gave me an old handbill printed in red ink, issued by District 2 of the Workers Party, which proclaimed LENIN LIVES! It urged us to “Come En Masse” to Madison Square Garden to a Sunday afternoon event chaired by Ben Gitlow (a central leader of U.S. Communism who later devolved into a professional anti-Communist on the far-right), an event which included the 400-voice Freiheit Chorus, a 100-piece symphony orchestra, and speeches from William Z. Foster, C. E. Ruthenberg, Moissaye Olgin, and Jack Stachel – for an admission fee of 50 cents (not a negligible sum
in 1925) and with an exhortation at the handbill’s bottom: LONG LIVE LENINISM!

The relevance of the handbill now, in relation to these three remarkable books, is a reflection of the terrible times in which we live. Consider three films that capture aspects of our reality as we
feel our way toward the close of the new century’s first decade.

The poignant German comedy “Goodbye Lenin!” (2003) – reflecting on the beautiful, tarnished, murderously corrupted, deadeningly bureaucratized dreams of the Communism that proved so utterly unsustainable throughout Eastern Europe – shows a monstrous statue of Lenin being carried away, through the air, by a helicopter, as a stunned female Communist-idealist (herself close to premature death) watches with uncomprehending wonder.

The edgy thriller “Syriana” (2005) shows us ruthless machinations of Communism’s triumphant and relentlessly profiteering adversary, as the corporate-capitalist driven Empire “takes out” a thoughtful, progressive, radical-nationalist of an oil-rich country, perpetuating
the global exploitation and misery of millions which – in turn, thanks to the absence of revolutionary alternatives – generates suicidal fundamentalist violence.

Fast forward to the year 2027 portrayed in the uncompromising “Children of Men” (2007): in the absence of a socialist alternative (protest movements for global justice were not enough), the world has begun its downward slide into barbarism, a vast cemetery, with the final enclave of “civilization” standing as an increasingly authoritarian and exclusionary (anti-immigrant, anti-refugee) husk whose inhumanity infects many who struggle against it – but images of Lenin appear, in the midst of religious icons, in an obscure, nurturing haven of those who hope and reach for humanity’s future.

But surely the images of Lenin as nurturing hope are misplaced – even radicals agree with liberals who quote conservatives who assure us that Lenin was a monster. In his little essay on Lenin in Time/CBS News People of the Century: One Hundred Men and Women Who Shaped the Last One Hundred Years, David Remnick explains to us that the great revolutionary held a “view of man as modeling clay and sought to create a new model of human nature and behavior through social engineering of the most radical kind,” and he goes on to quote Richard Pipes that
“Bolshevism was the most audacious attempt in history to subject the entire life of a country to a master plan. It sought to sweep aside as useless rubbish the wisdom that mankind had accumulated over millennia.” Such an inhuman approach to humanity inevitably breeds
nothing but inhumanity – unless the liberal/conservative allegation is a lie.

As my book Marx, Lenin, and the Revolutionary Experience was about to be published in 2006, I was unable to shake the feeling that what I was doing in that book hardly reflected my own thoughts alone. Against what had become so standard an interpretation of Lenin, as I was writing in the post-9/11 world, it felt that dominant ideologies were being undermined by political and social crises that would be generating insurgent forces ready to connect with the ideas of the “universally” dismissed revolutionary. Perhaps, I thought, we are about to see a
Lenin revival. The appearance, at approximately the same time, of these three volumes (two of which I was able to quickly take note of on my book’s page proofs) reinforce that sense.

Taking the most recent first, Lenin Reloaded presents a remarkable set of essays by an impressive set of 21st-century intellectuals – with contents causing the working-class child in me to recoil in panic, fearing that I will be too dull-witted to understand what all these
learned people, using strange words and esoteric allusions, are saying with such apparent fluency. As I labor over what they have written, I bump into the militant young activist within me who scoffs at such “over-intellectualizing,” yet the aging scholar in me feels unable to
follow the young comrade’s impatient advice to close this book – in part because what many of these people are saying is so interesting, so strikingly put, and (yes) so mind-expanding.
Frederic Jameson, beginning with an account from Trotsky’s 1932 diary of a dream-conversation with Lenin, describes Lenin’s formidable writings as coming from a man who is unaware that he is dead –He doesn’t know that the immense social experiment he single-handedly brought into being (and which we call Soviet Communism) has come to an end. He remains full of energy, although dead, and the vituperation expended on him by the living – that he was the originator of Stalinist terror, that he was an aggressive personality full of hatred, an
authoritarian in love with power and totalitarianism, even (worst of all) the rediscoverer of the market in his NEP – none of those insults manage to confer a death, or even a second death, on him. How is it, how can it be, that he still thinks he is alive?

This imagery is an eloquent way of stating the simple premise that “Lenin still means something,” but it gains one attention, nonetheless. So does Slavoj Žižek’s description of a Slovenian Communist who led a heroic uprising in a fascist prison, an uprising that became part of the mythology of a triumphant Communist state, a state that then arrested and imprisoned the same man and assigned him to forced-labor work brigade that was creating a monument glorifying the anti-fascist uprising that he had led – “a perfect metaphor for the twists of
Stalinism.” There is Terry Eagleton’s challenging and clever essay – with wonderful turns of phrase (he describes Lenin’s Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, while defending it, as “a work in which one can hear the occasional gurgling of a man well out of his depth”). Eagleton reflects on Lenin’s much maligned notion of a “revolutionary vanguard” (commonly dismissed as the arrogant elitism of a middle-class intellectual) with this fine point:
Those members of the Citizen Army and Irish Volunteers who fought with
James Connolly against the British imperial state in the Dublin Post
Office in 1916 constituted a vanguard. But this was not because they
were middle-class intellectuals – on the contrary, they were mostly
Dublin working men and women – or because they had some innate faculty
of superior insight into human affairs, or because they were in serene
possession of the scientific laws of history. They were a vanguard
because of their relational situation – because, like the revolutionary
cultural avant-guardes in contrast with modernist coteries, they saw
themselves not as a timeless elite but as the shock troops or front
line of a mass movement. There can be no vanguard in and for itself,
as coteries are by definition in and for themselves. And a vanguard
would not be in business unless it trusted profoundly in the capacities
of ordinary people, as elites by definition disdain them.

It is hardly the case that all of these writers are in agreement with each other. Antonio Negri argues that “not only must Lenin’s thought be re-examined with energetic fidelity, but it must also be reframed – as it were – ‘beyond Lenin.’” Of course, in going beyond Lenin, Negri and co-thinker Michael Hardt presented a notion of the world, in their stimulating best-seller Empire, that argued for the obsolescence of Lenin’s classic Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism. This is in stark contrast to what Georges Labica argues in this volume – “contemporary globalization is nothing other than Lenin’s ‘new imperialism,’ now reaching a still higher stage of development.” It is worth pondering how this yet “higher stage” is described:
If we finally take into account elements unknown to the old “new
imperialism,” since they simply did not exist, or at least in some
cases not on such a scale, such as the weight of debt controlled by
international monetary institutions, which has led to the ruin of an
entire continent (Africa), we have such things as the threat of nuclear
weapons, the dangers to the environment, the foreseeable shortage of
drinking water, and the general commodification that extends to the
sale of organs and the massive prostitution of children, so that we
should not be afraid to speak of a regular “criminalization of the
world economy.” The drug trade, another element previously unknown,
stands at the head of world commerce, narcotics being the commodity
with the highest rate of profit. ….

Also in these pages are prominent leaders of would-be Leninist parties, such as Alex Callinicos of the British SWP, and Daniel Bensaïd of the French LCR – capable intellectuals from substantial organizations. Callinicos articulately challenges among other things, what one might call traces of Stalinist residue among others in this volume, yet with comradely tone and with a respect for the common ground they share in relation to what has been the sterile anti-Leninist consensus. He usefully concludes his contribution with a serious-minded discussion of Lenin’s relevance to today’s Left – having to do with what he sees as 1) Lenin’s strategic analysis of capitalism, 2) his perspective of the specificity and centrality of politics, and 3) his view on the necessity of political organization. This seems remarkably consistent with points made in Bensaïd’s own distinctive essay, which concludes with the thought that "a politics without parties whatever name – movement, organization, league, party – they are given) ends up in most cases as a politics without politics: either an aimless tailism toward the spontaneity of social movements, or the worst form of elitist individualist vanguardism, or finally a repression of the political in
favor of the aesthetic or the ethical."

As suggested in Negri’s earlier-noted comments, there are those who emphasize how one can use Lenin to go beyond Lenin. In exploring Lenin’s radical engagement with Hegel of 1914-1916, Kevin Anderson comments that "by widening the orthodox Marxian notion of the revolutionary subject, he helped pave the way for later attempts to widen this still further, to embrace not only, as Lenin had begun to do, national and ethnic liberation movements, but also those of women, ecologists, gays and lesbians, and youth." At the same time, Anderson goes out of his way to stress that one can "still appreciate the many attractive features of this great revolutionary leader without in any way self-identifying as a Leninist, which in the dominant discourse usually means an adherence to his elitist concept of the vanguard party." We have noted that some of Anderson’s fellow contributors differ with him here – but none so completely as another scholar who also avoids "self-identifying as a Leninist," Lars T. Lih, who buoyantly argues (against critics like Anderson and against more than one defender in this volume) that the Lenin of the 1902 classic What Is To Be Done? – no elitist at all – got his perspectives on organization from none other than Karl Marx himself, "but more concretely and effectively from Marx as incarnated by European Social Democracy and the German SPD in particular."

All of this is interesting, and yet we happen to live in a time when, as the editors of this collection observe, "global capitalism appears to be the only game in town and the liberal-democratic system as the optimal political organization of society, [and] it has indeed become easier to imagine the end of the world than a far more modest change in the mode of production." Their response: "For us, ‘Lenin’ is not the nostalgic name for old dogmatic certainty; quite the contrary, the Lenin that we want to retrieve is the Lenin-in-becoming, the Lenin whose fundamental experience was that of being thrown into a catastrophic new constellation in which old reference points proved useless, and who was thus compelled to reinvent Marxism."

The rich, diverse contributions offered in this book – in some cases jostling aggressively against each other, while unified around the common perspective voiced by the editors – is a challenge for all serious intellectuals and activists of our time.

A limitation of Lenin Reloaded is that its essayists do not have an opportunity, between the covers of this specific volume, to demonstrate amply the virtues embodied in Lenin that are implied in their provocative, sharp-edged assertions. This cannot be said, however, about the volume that one of them has recently produced. Lars T. Lih’s Lenin Rediscovered: ‘What Is to Be Done?’ in Context, reminds me of a saying a Swedish once shard with me – "enough to choke a horse." It is massive, almost overwhelming – and yet, it is a magnificent contribution to our understanding of Lenin, Bolshevism, Marxism, and the history of the Russian revolutionary movement and of Communism. Clearly written, well-reasoned, effectively documented, it is a work that no scholar seriously examining the life and thought of Lenin will be able to ignore. More than this, it is a gift to serious political activists seeking to draw on traditions and lessons of the past in order to get present-day and future possibilities into sharper focus.

It is unfortunate that this book’s price is prohibitive for most activists, and that the sheer bulk of the volume (more than 860 pages) will be daunting for many. But those who seek to bridge the gap between serious scholarship and serious activism by helping deepen their comrades’ understanding through the development of more widely accessible educational materials will certainly want to draw on this outstanding resource.

Lih’s primary target for criticism is "a strong consensus of informed experts" who "at least from the mid-1950s" have put forward a reading of What Is To Be Done? that "has found its way into textbooks of political science and of Russian history, and, from there, into almost any secondary account that has reason to touch on Lenin. The two or three famous passages that form the textual basis of this reading are endlessly recycled from textbook to popular history to specialized monograph and back again." He sums up: "Putting all the assertions of the textbook interpretation together, we realize that WITBD is a profound theoretical and organizational innovation, the charter document of Bolshevism, and the ultimate source of Stalinism" – a set
of contentions unable to withstand this scholarly onslaught.

Lih presents a Lenin who is absolutely committed to the establishment of political democracy as essential to the struggle for and the realization of socialism, a Lenin who has immense confidence that the working class has a natural capacity for absorbing revolutionary socialist ideas and committing itself to the struggle for a radically better world, a Lenin who is determined to help build a broad working-class party with a principled socialist program flowing from a Marxist understanding of the world. He demolishes the notions that Lenin diverged qualitatively from Marx, that he distrusted the workers and their "spontaneity," that he was an elitist and an authoritarian. There is, in my opinion, a problematical feature of Lenin Rediscovered. While his primary anti-Communist target is effectively dealt with, he also has a bone to pick with how Lenin has been understood by "activists in the Trotskyist tradition" (specifically "writers such as Tony Cliff, John Molyneux and more recently Paul Le Blanc" – here referring to my 1990 book Lenin and the Revolutionary Party). The activists, he claims, have been inclined to give too much ground to the academics’ positing an elitist and authoritarian content in Lenin’s 1902 classic. While he does have some nice things to say about us, he suggests that the activists are swayed by the unfair and inaccurate anti-Lenin polemics of 1904 advanced by Rosa Luxemburg and Leon Trotsky (which are also employed by many of the academics). As I argue in a review to appear in the journal Historical Materialism, aspects of this argument strike me as too broadly put and somewhat off-base. Yet this strikes me as a minor problem within what remains a splendid achievement.

Lih is able to demonstrate, with scholarly thoroughness, that this vision is at the core of Lenin’s What Is To Be Done? and other writings from the mid-1890s up to the revolutionary upsurge of 1905. Thanks to his knowledge of Russian, he is able to comb through existing English
translations to identify problematical formulations not existing in the Russian original. In fact, about one-third of the text consists of a retranslation of What Is To Be Done?, with two sections of detailed annotations – an incredible contribution by itself. He also combs through an immense quantity of other Russian-language materials that he utilizes to help bring the context of Lenin’s writings into clearer focus than ever before. For those of us laboring without Russian language skills, this in itself is a precious offering.

More than this, noting that Lenin unambiguously projected a Russian version of the German Social Democratic Party as the kind of organization to bring about socialism in Russia, Lih focuses sustained attention on the German party and its powerful influence on the Russian
Marxists. In doing this, he gives a well-merited respectful attention to the early contributions of Karl Kautsky and to his importance for the revolutionary Left, Lenin most of all.

One might argue that he "bends the stick" too far – being rather dismissive of the powerful critique of "so-called fatalistic Marxism" of the Second International advanced in the 1920s by the likes of Lukács, Korsch and Gramsci, and not being alert to the critical insights that Rosa Luxemburg and other revolutionary Marxists (Pannekoek, Riazanov, Parvus, Trotsky, Radek, Rakovsky, etc.) were developing at the time. These critical insights that found confirmation in the debacle of 1914, causing Lenin himself to revise his earlier positive judgments and to recast and sharpen his own Marxism. But a serious understanding of Lenin and the other Russian
Marxists of the early 1900s can be advanced by setting these matters aside in order to fully comprehend the understanding they had at the time of the Marxism of the Second International and of Germany Social Democracy. And as he does this, Lih helps us to see the strengths and
grandeur of these truly impressive entities.What, according to Lih, was the Leninist vision of the revolutionary party as put forward in his 1902 classic? His view of Lenin’s orientation could be summarized this way: The creation of a revolutionary workers’ party, guided by a serious-minded utilization of socialist theory and scientific analysis, drawing increasing numbers of
working people into a highly conscious struggle against all forms of oppression – this could not be expected to arise easily or spontaneously. It had to be created through the most persistent,
serious, consistent efforts of revolutionary socialists. The working class would not automatically become a force for socialist revolution, but it could develop into such a force with the assistance of a serious revolutionary workers’ party. Such a party – making past lessons, the most advanced social theory, and a broad social vision accessible to increasing numbers of workers – would be a vital component in the self-education and self-organization of the working class, helping to develop spontaneous working-class impulses toward democracy and socialism into a cohesive, well-organized, and powerful social force.

The greatest limitation in this huge study, perhaps, is that it is not three or four times as huge – that is, it stops in 1904. It needs to be extended two more decades to help us see how Lenin’s party, and his ideas, continued to evolve in ways that brought about the workers’
revolution of 1917, and what happened in the revolution’s aftermath to help transform Lenin’s party into something other than what he intended. It might be good to add the consideration of an additional ten years, to examine the further transformation of what had been the
revolutionary party of Lenin into the bureaucratic tyranny of Stalin. Those are realities that must also be understood if we are to comprehend the "Leninism of Lenin" in a manner that will be useful for those who wish to change the world for the better.

Those arguing in Lenin Reloaded that we need to consider how to translate Lenin into our own distinctive realities can do little – again because of space limitations – to illustrate what such efforts might look like. To get a sense of how some have tried to do this very thing (with complex and often mixed results, to be sure), it is worth looking at the history of the early Communist movement that arose in the week of Lenin’s revolution in Russia.

Bryan Palmer’s James P. Cannon and the Origins of the American Revolutionary Left is one of the finest books yet produced on the early Communist movement in the United States. This is not surprising given the nature of Palmer’s work to date. He was a young colleague of the
incomparable British labor historian E. P. Thompson, of whom Palmer has written a rich and insightful biography worthy of its subject. In his writing a fluid and clear literary style seems always to be matched with a searching and disciplined analytical mind. His mastery of the
secondary literature on U.S. Communism is matched by his own cutting-edge research, pushing the edge of scholarship significantly outward.

Cannon, a figure often dismissed by academics, intellectuals, and political opponents as unworthy of serious consideration. But Palmer cuts through the dismissive tangle to reveal a remarkable figure. The young Cannon was intensely active in the Socialist Party led by Eugene V. Debs and in colorful and rambunctious Wobblies – the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) – before becoming a key founder and a central leader of the early Communist Party in the United States. (Cannon’s role in the later Trotskyist movement will be the focus of a projected second volume, but what we offered here stands quite well on its own.)

The wonderful blend of literary and scholarly skills greatly enhances what Palmer is able to do for us. The first two chapters on Cannon’s boyhood – which unearth new material – are written with considerable charm, giving a sense of a boyhood reminiscent of Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn. Other early chapters convey a sense of what the early Socialist Party was like on the local level as Cannon was coming of age in a socialist household in Rosedale, Kansas. The young activist soon struck out on his own, attracted with many others of his generation to the rough-and-tumble revolutionary unionism of the Wobblies, and Palmer gives a marvelous on-the-ground picture of the IWW during the Progressive era in such places as New Castle, Pennsylvania, where Cannon edited a Wobbly paper and helped provide leadership in
organizing and strike struggles. Also very well done is the account of the merging of local radical streams (under the impact of World War I, government repression, and the Russian Revolution) into the early U.S. Communist movement.

The historiography of U.S. Communism has been a minefield. The contributions of Theodore Draper – in two volumes focused on the first ten years of American Communism -- long dominated the field, and this terrain was extended into the 1930s by Draper protégé, Harvey Klehr. Draper and those identifying with him strongly emphasize the decisive influence of the USSR in shaping and dominating American Communism, telling a grim story of authoritarian corruption and wasted idealism. This "traditional" orientation (compatible with traditional Cold War liberalism and more recent neo-conservatism) has been sharply challenged over the years by a very substantial and incredibly rich body of "revisionist" scholarship (compatible with "new left" and socialist perspectives). The "revisionists" have insisted on the indigenous roots of U.S. Communism and – while not denying negative influences emanating from the USSR – highlight inspiring struggles and positive contributions on American soil.

Palmer stakes out a new position in this highly contentious field. He does not allow the story of triumphant Stalinism to obliterate the fact that capitalism is an oppressive system, and that the early Communists were often insightful, creative, and heroic in confronting it – both drawing from and contributing to the rich traditions of the U.S. labor and radical movements. In contrast to many of the "revisionists," however, the story of American Communism’s subordination to the vicious Stalin dictatorship that came to dominate the USSR and the world Communist movement is no less central to Palmer’s account than it was to Draper’s.

Most historians of American Communism have focused on other periods: the first moments, when John Reed and others respond with joy and boundless optimism to the Russian Revolution of 1917; the mass struggles and growing influence of the 1930s; the shift from significant influence during World War II to the disasters of the anti-Communist Cold War era; the crisis and collapse in the wake of the revelations of Stalin’s crimes. Here we are offered a coherent and detailed story about the converging streams of vibrant labor radicalism that resulted in U.S. Communism’s beginnings, its promising initial growth in the glow of the Russian Revolution’s early promise, and its painful disorientation and corruption as the revolutionary promise of
Lenin and the Bolsheviks was replaced by the bureaucratic tyranny of the Stalin regime.

One of the great strengths of Palmer’s book is that it so effectively challenges a common misconception perpetrated by many latter-day students of U.S. Communism, to some extent beguiled by rationalizations of many who embraced the Stalinist dilution of Communism prevalent from the mid-1930s onward. According to such accounts, the U.S. Communist Party of the 1920s Communist movement was little more than a hot-bed of sterile sectarianism that was only overcome by the broad-based reformism of the later "people’s front" era. Palmer shows us, however, is that this movement represented, "for all its internal divisions, a leading edge of the labor Left, as well as an important force in defending civil rights for oppressed minorities and class-war prisoners," all in all "a momentous advance for the revolutionary Left,
albeit one that would soon stumble and eventually fall backward."

The formation of the U.S. Communist Party had been the culmination of half a century of experience since the Civil War, involving the cumulative development of a vibrant labor-radical sub-culture, and the corresponding evolution of three generations of labor-radical activists. Uneven, full of contradictions and sometimes absurdities, the Communist Party of the 1920s, with a membership fluctuating between 7000 and 12,000, exercised significant influence in labor, radical, and even liberal circles. Under William Z. Foster’s leadership, and with the assistance of Cannon and others, an influential network was created in the American Federation of Labor through the Trade Union Educational League (TUEL), to which many progressive union leaders and activists rallied. (Palmer’s critical assessment of Foster’s mis-steps and limitations provides worthwhile insights into TUEL failures.) The Party was also involved in defending human rights and civil liberties in the United States, particularly those of workers, through the International Labor Defense (ILD) that was conceived of during 1925 discussions between Cannon, his companion Rose Karsner, and the legendary IWW leader "Big Bill" Haywood. Indeed, Palmer’s book offers the first sustained examination of the ILD (which has generally been subjected to scholarly scrutiny primarily only around the Herndon and Scottsboro cases later in the 1930s). There were many other components of the Communist movement – focusing on the rights of oppressed racial and national groups, women’s rights, immigrant rights, the interests of young people and aspirations of students, the opposition to war and imperialism and militarism. Significant attention was given to educating around and building support for the Soviet Union, where many felt a bright socialist future was being built. There were a variety of publications, educational efforts, cultural activities, and more.

Describing Cannon as "a figure stamped with the unmistakable marks of the native-born proletarian agitator, [who] nevertheless cultivated relations with some of the more cosmopolitan and theoretical elements in the communist movement, such as Alexander Bittleman, just as he
rubbed shoulders with the cultural wing of the revolutionary Left, reviewing books by Mike Gold, drinking and breaking bread with the likes of Tom Tippett and Joseph Freeman, and impressing a youthfully radical Claude McKay with his acumen at a Comintern gathering in

Although rich in material on the internal workings of the Communist Party, as well as on the interesting details of Cannon’s life, this big book goes much further. Connections with larger economic, social, and cultural developments in the United States are frequently made, with
contextual explications, as well, of both national and international political realities. A discussion of the interplay between shifting dynamics within the Communist International and factional fluctuations among the early U.S. Communists is central to the latter part of the narrative (and is a key to Palmer’s own interpretation) without, however, obliterating the larger narrative. One gets a vibrant sense of problems and struggles among workers, with the importance of the
Passaic strike and the Sacco and Vanzetti case, for example, shining through – and in some cases helping to illuminate – the internal conflicts that wracked the Communist Party in the same period.

Palmer does not hold back from tackling larger issues of U.S. labor radicalism, including such questions as "why is there no socialism in the United States?" and – at least by implication – how obstacles to an effective socialist movement might be transcended. He explores the
relationship of the USSR, as opposed to indigenous traditions, to U.S. Communism, while tracing contributions of the Communist movement to social struggles and social changes in the larger society. He also gives attention to the "organization question" and how different ways of dealing with it have had a significant impact on the fortunes and effectiveness of a political organization and movement. In this last matter, he is part of the rising current of sharp-thinking left-wing
scholars who are moving well beyond the fashionable bashing of "the Leninist vanguard party" as the root of all evil. The example and influence of Lenin and the Bolsheviks are far more positive than negative in this narrative. Cannon’s stubborn adherence to the early revolutionary ideals is what gets him into trouble with the bureaucratic-authoritarian degeneration of international Communism with the advance and consolidation of the Stalin regime.

The book concludes with the decision of Cannon and a few handfuls of comrades to adhere to the Left Opposition headed by Trotsky. Their expulsion from the Communist mainstream (with even former adherents such as William Dunne and Gil Green turning against them) was
engineered by leaders of a rival faction, Jay Lovestone, Bertram D. Wolfe, and Ben Gitlow, who soon were expelled themselves for being insufficiently Stalinist, and who a couple of decades later were prominent Cold War anti-Communists. The distinguishing characteristic of Cannon and many others who rallied around Trotsky’s banner was that they would remain true to the revolutionary and working-class socialist ideals that had animated the early Communists, in the face of the incredibly more powerful and "relevant" yet incredibly more ugly forces – the totalitarian lure of Stalinism and the exploitative materialism of capitalism.

If the words "LENIN LIVES!" are to be more than rhetorical posturing, they will have to go beyond the intellectual constructions contained in essays of the eighteen intellectuals represented in Lenin Reloaded. Some of that volume’s essayists insist on this themselves. "Without revolutionary theory there is no revolutionary movement, to be sure, which at one level means no more than that you can’t have a women’s movement without the idea of feminism," Eagleton tells us. "But at the same time, according to Lenin, there is no adequate theory without revolutionary practice. Correct revolutionary theory, he insisted, assumes final shape only in close connection with the practical activity of a mass revolutionary movement."

Living "Leninism" is not encompassed in a one and a half dozen intellectuals (the number associated with this book) – they are not "the revolutionary vanguard" of which Lenin spoke, nor is an organization of 1800 activists that has simply declared itself to be so. The words "mass movement" suggests that the vanguard Lenin has in mind constitutes a more substantial, measurable percentage of the working class. My uncle’s old handbill, an artifact from the time of
which Palmer writes, reflects the fact that serious efforts to implement Lenin’s perspective were rooted in a political, social, cultural phenomenon adding up to a section (or vanguard) of the working class. This seems so alien to our own reality!

Yet long before radical academics were intoning the mantra of "race, class, and gender" and to exploring even more diverse and dynamically intersecting identities, such sensibilities could be seen (despite inadequate vocabularies and the inevitable clumsiness of beginners) within the Leninist tradition. The Workers Party of America sought to represent women as well as men, young and old and everyone in-between, workers of all colors and cultures and ethnicities, each and every person who suffered oppression under capitalism, and to draw more and
more of the working class into an independent economic, social, and political force capable of effective challenging the multi-faceted power of capitalism, and to transfer that power into the hands of the working-class majority – to allow the free development of each to become the basis for the free development of all.

"For Lenin, the knowledge that the working class can have of itself is indissolubly linked to a precise knowledge of the reciprocal relations of all classes in contemporary society, a knowledge which is not only theoretical, we should say is less theoretical than founded on the experience of politics." This according to Bensaïd, who adds: "It is through the test of practical politics that this knowledge of the reciprocal relations between classes is acquired. To paraphrase Lenin, this makes ‘our revolution’ into a ‘revolution of the whole people.’" Callinicos – challenging the notion prevalent among many activists that "the dispersal of campaigning energies serves to confuse the corporate establishment and keep it on the defensive," which he warns could lead to "confusion and exhaustion among activists" – adds that "any effective radical movement requires some means of fitting together specific grievances into some more comprehensive picture of what is wrong and how to remedy it and some systematic means of translating this vision into reality."

Smart as these leftist intellectuals are, they are not the only ones to whom such ideas are occurring. Our world is in trouble. "Mainstream" politics and the logic of the market seem unable to keep things from getting worse. Varieties of reformism, anarchism, fundamentalism
(secular as well as religious) have been tried, continue to be tried, and yet the times in which we live seem to grow more terrible. There is a growing unease, questioning, searching for new pathways of thought and action. These books, which ten or fifteen years ago might not have
been taken seriously, will today still not be read by masses of people. But what masses of people are experiencing and feeling and thinking today gives these books a greater resonance than before, and so they may find a greater "market" – a broader and more intense readership –
than before. It is even possible that these intellectual stirrings will contribute to thinking and activity among an emergent layer of activists that, in turn, could facilitate larger political shifts.
Lenin has returned, possibly to be followed by a re-emergence/revitalization of some variant (or variants) of Leninist politics. Whether this will advance struggles for human liberation, with activists learning from (not repeating) sectarian and tragic derailments of the past – this is a question that may yet become relevant.

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