Paul Le Blanc, author of Unfinished Leninism, has replied to Ian Birchall’s discussion article on Leninism over at SocialistWorker.org. In an article titled Leninism, No? Paul sets out “a sense of what I mean by Leninism, as utilised in my own writings”:
In his commitment to a fusion of the struggles of the workers and all the oppressed with the struggle for socialism, Lenin showed an understanding of the diversity and unevenness of working-class experience and consciousness, and reached for an expansive sense of solidarity and common cause that has the potential for drawing the working class as a whole – with allies in other social strata – into the struggle for its collective interests.
Blending an understanding of the necessity of working-class political independence in political and social struggles, and the need for its supremacy (or hegemony) if struggles against oppression are to triumph, Lenin adhered to an approach of integrating reform struggles with revolutionary strategy, with a remarkable understanding of the manner in which democratic struggles flow into socialist revolution.
In Lenin’s thought and practice, we see the development of the united front tactic – in which diverse political forces can work together for common goals, without revolutionary organisations undermining their ability to pose effective revolutionary perspectives to the capitalist status quo. We see Lenin developing a vibrantly revolutionary internationalist approach that includes a profound analysis of imperialism and nationalism.
He sees all of this as integrated into a coherent conception of organisation that is practical, democratic and revolutionary – although he never referred to this as “a Leninist party”, and there is no compelling reason for us to cling to this commonly distorted and misunderstood term.
Lenin, not bent on being “innovative,” did not invent all of this. But he was a creative thinker who advanced certain lines of thought – it can be demonstrated – in ways that were different from many others in the Marxist intellectual camp. In any event, he put the elements summarised above together in a manner that had a powerful impact in his native Russia and throughout the world. This can, I think, legitimately be termed Leninism.