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HindustanTimes Fri,18 Apr 2014

The debate continues

Sankar Ray, Hindustan Times   June 21, 2013
First Published: 23:31 IST(21/6/2013) | Last Updated: 12:07 IST(24/6/2013)
A work that revisits how Marxism and Leninism are mutually exclusive.

Marxism, Leninism Poles Apart
Binay Sarkar, Adam Buick
Avemel press
Rs. 200  pp 160

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JV Stalin’s — or whoever’s — definition of Leninism as “Marxism in the era of imperialism” is vacuous to those who have studied the works of Marx and Engels dispassionately. Lenin’s critical biographer, Dimitri Volgokonov’s words, “One thing is certain, and that is that the ‘Epoch of Lenin’ is gone forever” are meaningful.

On the contrary, the validity of Marx remains not only intact but vibrant too. After the subprime crisis that rocked the hegemony of US in a unipolar world, it would seem that even apologists of neo-liberal finance capital have reached for the Das Kapital since works like Keynes’ General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, and Milton Friedman’s A Program for Monetary Stability proved inadequate to understand why Wall Street was in a tizzy.

Given this background, Marxism, Leninism — Poles Apart by Binay Sarkar and Adam Buick is relevant for a new generation yearning for change. Split into 14 chapters that deal with subjects like Marx’s critique of money, Lenin versus Marx on state, the move from Lenin to Stalin, and Marx’s conception of socialism, this is a good read.

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The intention is to show that Marxism and Leninism are mutually exclusive theoretically and historically. Readers of Maximilien Rubel, Anton Pannekoek, Paresh Chattopadhyay, Cyril Smith and the like will welcome the book though the content and conclusions may not be new to them.

Lenin’s or the Bolsheviks’ imposed perceptions like the socialist state, socialism as the first stage of communism and the ‘commune state’ are at total variance with Marx’s perception of socialist society (not state), which is ‘ a non-market society, with all that’s implied: no money, no buying and selling, no wages etc’, the authors succinctly state.

In contrast, the socialist state (a ludicrous oxymoron) , established by the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, led by Lenin and Trotsky (Stalin, a back-bencher) did not only keep up monetary/commodity exchange but also wage slavery.

Remember Chattopadhyay’s acerbic words: “Lenin tries to smuggle ‘state’ into Marx’s text of the Gotha critique by brazenly revising it. Lenin and RSDLP kept capitalism alive”. Terms like ‘socialism’, ‘communism’, ‘the republic of labour’, ‘a society of free and equal individuals’, and ‘cooperative society’ were all synonymous in Marx.

Of course, the complete negation of Lenin is questionable. Did Lenin err by extending Marx-Engels’ slogan — ‘Workers of the world Unite’ to ‘Workers and oppressed people of the world unite’? This deserves a healthy debate.

Sankar Ray is an analyst on the environment and Left politics.


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