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Lenin - On Parliamentary Struggle
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"theoretical victory of Marxism compelled its enemies to disguise themselves as Marxists. Liberalism, rotten within, tried to revive itself in the form of socialist opportunism." (1)
Fundamental Marxist Leninist Approach on the choice of forms of struggle
Contrary to the arguments of Left deviations, Marxist Leninists never refuse a form of struggle, including and especially Parliamentary form of struggle. Argument as such is against the dialectics of Marxism. Lenin asks, " What are the fundamental demands which every Marxist should make of an examination of the question of forms of struggle?" and gives his answer;
"Marxism differs from all primitive forms of socialism by not binding the movement to any one particular form of struggle. It recognizes the most varied forms of struggle; and it does not “concoct” them, but only generalizes, organizes, gives conscious expression to those forms of struggle of the revolutionary classes which arise of themselves in the course of the movement. Absolutely hostile to all abstract formulas and to all doctrinaire recipes, Marxism demands an attentive attitude to the mass struggle in progress, which, as the movement develops, as the class-consciousness of the masses grows, as economic and political crises become acute, continually gives rise to new and more varied methods of defense and attack.. Marxism, therefore, positively does not reject any form of struggle. Under no circumstances does Marxism confine itself to the forms of struggle possible and in existence at the given moment only, recognizing as it does that new forms of struggle, unknown to the participants of the given period, inevitably arise as the given social situation, changes."
Marxism demands an absolutely historical examination of the question of the forms of struggle. To treat this question apart from the concrete historical situation betrays a failure to understand the rudiments of dialectical materialism. At different stages of economic evolution, depending on differences in political, national-cultural, living and other conditions, different forms of struggle come to the fore and become the principal forms of struggle; and in connection with this, the secondary, auxiliary forms of struggle undergo change in their turn. To attempt to answer yes or no to the question whether any particular means of struggle should be used, without making a detailed examination of the concrete situation of the given movement at the given stage of its development, means completely to abandon the Marxist position.... These are the two principal theoretical propositions by which we must be guided. " (2)
Based on Lenin's assessment of the subject and Marxist -Leninist basic approach, far-left sloganized phrases such as " Marxist Leninists do not use parliament because it is pigsty of bourgeoise" , "no to parliament and election" - isolated from the concrete situation have nothing to do with Marxism- Leninism, but anti-Marxist-Leninist indeed. Both, theoretically and practically, it is unavoidable and expected for so many variations of Trotskyists to make such arguments for every condition.
During the years of Imperialist war, end of 1916, Lenin in his letter to Inessa Armand was saying;
"How stupid that Levi is attacking parliamentarism!! Stupid!! And a “Left”, too!! God, how much muddle there is in people’s heads." "(3)
Undoubtedly these words of Lenin were not for "every condition" but he was emphasizing the stupidity of attacking to parliamentarism on the basis of concrete assessment of that given concrete conditions.
Marxist Leninists do not reject the use of parliament, but they proceed from the historically proven fact that the usage of parliament is entirely contingent on the conditions of any given period and the balance of powers -between revolution and counter revolution. We should not confuse the times when the revolutionary struggle of the masses rising or has already risen, where the large masses do not have parliamentary illusions, where non-parliamentary struggle is widespread and strong, with the times when the revolutionary struggle weak, and where the parliamentary illusions and hopes of the masses are high. The approach and attitude at each given condition will be different. Meaning that the Marxist-Leninists do not approach to question as a " systematized-sloganized" recipe that is appropriate to every condition.
When Lenin was comparing the Soviet Union and the Democratic Republic in his speech, he was explaining the importance of Parliament in the context of the development and struggle of working -class in general;
" The democratic republic and universal suffrage were an immense progressive advance as compared with feudalism; they have enabled the proletariat to achieve its present unity and solidarity, to form those firm and disciplined ranks which are waging a systematic struggle against capital.
The bourgeois republic, parliament, universal suffrage—all represent great progress from the standpoint of the world development of society. Mankind moved towards capitalism, and it was capitalism alone which, thanks to urban culture, enabled the oppressed proletarian class to become conscious of itself and to create the world working-class movement, the millions of workers organised all over the world in parties—the socialist parties which are consciously leading the struggle of the masses. Without parliamentarism, without an electoral system, this development of the working class would have been impossible. That is why all these things have acquired such great importance in the eyes of the broad masses of people. That is why a radical change seems to be so difficult. " (4)
Above, Lenin is making his assessment on the basis of comparing feudalism, autocracy, etc. with bourgeois Democratic Republic. Widely extracted quote from the same speech below is the comparison of the Soviet system with the bourgeois parliamentary system.
"Whatever guise a republic may assume, however democratic it may be, if it is a bourgeois republic, if it retains private ownership of the land and factories, and if private capital keeps the whole of society in wage-slavery, that is, if the republic does not carry out what is proclaimed in the Programme of our Party and in the Soviet Constitution, then this state is a machine for the suppression of some people by others. And we shall place this machine in the hands of the class that is to overthrow the power of capital. . "(4)
The dialectical connection between the two is that the necessity of the destruction of parliament -which is one of the paths of the real revolution- without rejecting it, benefiting from its contribution. Failing in the grasp of Marxist dialectics will result in seeing these two aforementioned assessments as " contradiction " . The reformist embraces the first, rejects the second, " far-left" embraces the second, rejects the first. However, for this general rejection they bring out neither theoretical nor concrete historical practical illustration.
In regard to those reformists' perspective who memorized the first quote above and fitted themselves to it as Lenin says;
" The opportunists of contemporary Social-Democracy, who have substituted Scheidemann for Marx, have memorized the rule that parliamentarism “should be utilized” (which is absolutely correct), but have forgotten what Marx taught concerning proletarian democracy as distinguished from bourgeois parliamentarism. " . (5)
In regard to far-left perspective, criticizing Bordiga at the International's second congress, Lenin says;
" Comrade Bordiga seems to have wanted to defend the Italian Marxists’ point of view here, yet he has failed to reply to any of the arguments advanced by other Marxists in favour of parliamentary action.
Comrade Bordiga has admitted that historical experience is not created artificially. He has just told us that the struggle must be carried into another sphere. Is he not aware that every revolutionary crisis has been attended by a parliamentary crisis? True, he has said that the struggle must be carried into another sphere, into the Soviets. Bordiga, however, has himself admitted that Soviets cannot be created artificially. The example of Russia shows that Soviets can be organised either during a revolution or on the eve of a revolution. Even in the Kerensky period, the Soviets (which were Menshevik Soviets) were organised in such a way that they could not possibly constitute a proletarian government. Parliament is a product of historical development, and we cannot eliminate it until we are strong enough to disperse the bourgeois parliament. It is only as a member of the bourgeois parliament that one can, in the given historical conditions, wage a struggle against bourgeois society and parliamentarianism. The same weapon as the bourgeoisie employs in the struggle must also be used by the proletariat, of course, with entirely different aims. You cannot assert that that is not the case, and if you want to challenge it, you will have thereby to erase the experience of all revolutionary developments in the world. "
This was to be seen in the case of Russia too. We were obliged to convene the Constituent Assembly even after the victory of the proletariat, so as to prove to the backward proletarians that they had nothing to gain from that Assembly. To bring home the difference between the two, we had to concretely contrapose the Soviets and the Constituent Assembly and to show the Soviets as the only solution. " ( 6)
If we take what Lenin has emphasized in his critic into account , it wouldn’t be wrong to assume that there are two basic reasons why Marxist Leninists use parliament as a means; first, to educate the masses through parliament by exposing the practices of all bourgeoisie parties, to show the working masses that the parliament cannot solve the problems, that in terms of solutions the parliament of the bourgeoisie is a lie and deception , second and most importantly, as Lenin stressed above, that parliamentary crisis is one of the most important element of the objective and subjective conditions of the revolution and that's why interrelated, directly dialectically connected with the revolution .
"Social-Democrats (Bolsheviks) regard parliamentarism (participation in representative assemblies) as one of the means of enlightening and educating the proletariat and organising it in an independent class party; as one of the methods of the political struggle for the emancipation of the workers. This Marxist standpoint radically distinguishes Social-Democracy from bourgeois democracy, on the one hand, and from anarchism on the other...the participation of the Social-Democrats in the Duma campaign is of a quite different nature from that of other parties. Unlike them, we do not regard this campaign as an end in itself or even as being of cardinal importance. Unlike them, we subordinate this campaign to the interests of the class struggle."( 7)
Marxist Leninists combine both extra-parliamentary (illegal) and parliamentary (legal) struggle depending on the conditions and balance of power.
" Tactics " says Lenin, “cannot be based on the bare fact that the oppressors deceive the people; tactics must be shaped after analyzing class relations in their entirety and the development of both extra-parliamentary and parliamentary struggle.." "(8)
Another Lenin 's widely clipped quote is; "Bourgeois parliament is pigsty; revolutionaries don't work in pigsty”. In relation to this, the same writing of Lenin above states;
" they were based only on the "catchyness" of the boycott slogan and on the revulsion felt towards the brutal reaction of the June Third "pigsty". The objective situation, however, was such that on the one hand the revolution was in a state of collapse and declining fast. For the upsurge of the revolution a parliamentary base (even inside a "pigsty") was of tremendous political importance, since extra-parliamentary means of propaganda, agitation and organisation were almost nonexistent or extremely weak. On the other hand, the most openly reactionary nature of the Third Duma did not prevent it from being an organ reflecting real class relations, namely, the Stolypin combination of the monarchy and the bourgeoisie. This new relation of classes was something the country had to get rid of. (8)
As we can deduce from the quotes above, undoubtedly there is no connection with Marxism Leninism in denying Parliamentary struggle as a general rule. In regard to the trial of Group of Social Democrats in Duma Lenin was saying;
"the trial has revealed a picture without precedent in world socialism—that of revolutionary Social-Democracy making use of parliamentarianism. More than any speeches, this example will appeal to the minds and hearts of the proletarian masses; more convincingly than any arguments, it will refute the legalist opportunists and anarchist phrase-mongers. " (9)
Lenin was stressing;
" obligatory appointment of definitely revolutionary workers who are entirely free from traditions, habits and prejudices of peaceful work, parliamentarism and legalism, and who, even if extremely inexperienced, are (1) capable of fighting reformism and opportunism (2) and are in close touch with the rank and file of the proletariat and with its most revolutionary section. (10)
Contrary to the far-left discourse Marxism-Leninism as a principle defending the use of Parliament proceeds from the principle that the use is totally contingent on the specific conditions of a given situation, and the concrete assessment of it.
In a different situation, for example, Lenin was saying;
" As Social-Democrats we, of course, have recognised the obligation in principle of using parliamentarism as a weapon of the proletarian struggle. But the point is whether it is admissible for Social-Democrats to take part, in present conditions, in a “parliament” like our Duma. Is it admissible to form a parliamentary group without Social-Democratic members of parliament elected by workers’ organisations? Our opinion is that it is not." (11)
It is clear that Lenin was not against parliamentarianism in principle. Contrary he was for the use of parliament in principle, but contingent on the concrete assessment of existing specific conditions. Every decision for a ML derives from and has in mind the interests of working class and of its struggle.
The same way that Lenin calls anti-parliamentarianism as "stupidity" in where the revolutionary situation does not exist, he calls parliamentarianism as "stupidity" in where the revolutionary situation is ripe, and riots have begun.
“It has become a commonplace for all opponents of revisionism or opportunism in parliamentary countries. It has become generally accepted as the legitimate and necessary rebuff to “parliamentary cretinism,” Millerandism, Bernsteinism, and the Italian reformism of the Turati brand. .... The concept “opposition,” which has become the reflection and the expression of a political situation in which no one seriously speaks of an insurrection, is senselessly applied to a situation in which insurrection has begun and in which all the supporters of the revolution are thinking and talking about leadership in it. The desire to “stick to” old methods, i.e., action only “from below,” is expressed with pomp and clamour precisely at a time when the revolution has confronted us with the necessity, in the event of the insurrection being victorious, of acting from above. " (12)
We can find the different approach at different times, and the reason, as I have stressed earlier for the use of Parliament, in Lenin's following statement;
"Prior to the capture of political power by the proletariat it was (obligatory) necessary to make use of bourgeois democracy, parliamentarism in particular, for the political education and organisation of the working masses; now that the proletariat has won political power and a higher type of democracy is being put into effect in the Soviet Republic, any step backward to bourgeois parliamentarism and bourgeois democracy would undoubtedly be reactionary service to the interests of the exploiters, the landowners and capitalists." (13)
Lenin, with self-criticism states the different approach at different times:
" The Bolsheviks, it turned out, had a wrong attitude to parliamentarism in moments of revolutionary (and not constitutional) crises...
The Bolshevik participation in this hideous fraud, in this farce, had the same justification as their participation in the Third Duma ; even in a "pigsty" we must uphold our line, even from a "pigsty" we must send out material exposing the enemy for the instruction of the people.
The difference, however, is this, that the Third Duma was convened when the revolution was obviously ebbing, while at present there is an obvious upsurge of a new revolution; of the scope and the pace of this upsurge, however, we unfortunately know very little.” (14)
Vulgar Anarchists, phrase-mongering opposition to parliamentarianism, especially in autocratic, fascist countries like Turkey ", neither conforms with the dialectic of Marxism nor with Leninism in its nature.
"For Marx", Lenin says "however, revolutionary dialectics was never the empty fashionable phrase, the toy rattle, which Plekhanov, Kautsky and others have made of it. Marx knew how to break with anarchism ruthlessly for its inability to make use even of the “pigsty” of bourgeois parliamentarism, especially when the situation was obviously not revolutionary; but at the same time, he knew how to subject parliamentarism to genuinely revolutionary proletarian criticism. "" (15)
What always interesting is that in countries like Turkey, the efforts and approaches of left- deviation (Trotskyite variations) to dish out anarchism as Leninism is not any different from the history of "left- deviation " approach and the attitude in Russia. When Lenin criticized the Otzovists, he was exposing this clearly:
"You have memorised fragments of Bolshevik phrases and slogans but your understanding of them is precisely nil...
The anarchists have absolutely never been able to understand this simple thing. Now our otzovists and their removed echoers are trying to introduce anarchist modes of thought among Russian Social-Democrats, crying out (like Maximov and Co.) that Proletary is dominated by the theory of “parliamentarism at any price”.
... To show how stupid and un-Social-Democratic these out cries of Maximov and Co. are, we shall once more have to begin with the ABC. Just reflect, unjustly removed ones, what is the specific difference between the policy and tactics of the German Social-Democrats and those of the socialist workers’ parties in other countries? The utilisation of parliamentarism; the conversion of bourgeois Junker (approximate Russian equivalent: Octobrist-Black-Hundred) parliamentarism into an instrument for the socialist education and organisation of the mass of the workers. Does this mean that parliamentarism is the highest form of struggle of the socialist proletariat? Anarchists the world over think it does mean that. " (16)
For the participation in parliament, in a different country and for a different situation, comparing, Lenin said;
"the question of parliamentarism is now a partial, secondary question. Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were, in my opinion, correct when they defended participation in the elections to the German bourgeois parliament, to the constituent National Assembly, at the January 1919 Conference of the Spartacists in Berlin, against the majority at the Conference.... I am personally convinced that to renounce participation in the parliamentary elections is a mistake on the part of the revolutionary workers of Britain, but better to make that mistake than to delay the formation of a big workers’ Communist Party in Britain out of all the trends and elements. " .. (17)
Against the participation, Lenin for a different situation says;
" The specific feature of the present state of the Russian revolution is that objective conditions are pushing into the forefront a resolute, extra-parliamentary struggle for parliamentarism; and for that reason, there can be nothing more harmful and dangerous at such a time than constitutional illusions and playing at parliamentarism. At such a time the parties of “parliamentary” opposition may be more dangerous and harmful than completely and avowedly reactionary parties: this proposition may sound paradoxical only to those who are totally incapable of thinking dialectically. " (18)
Contrary to the Trotskyists and their tailgaters direct or indirect arguments or implications, it is very clear that Lenin did not have categorical rejecting attitude to parliamentarism. The same way, it is very clear that Lenin's attitude to the use of parliamentarism is not beyond its use as a means, it is not an end by itself. Lenin 's attitude to parliament has always been for the use of it as a means, and always stressed the necessity of preventing the spread of the parliamentary illusion. Lenin who reads the article Lunacharsky wrote before its published notes;
" I believe the article should be revised along one of two lines: either the weight of emphasis should be shifted to our new-Iskrists, who are “playing at parliamentarism”, and you should demonstrate in detail the relative, temporary importance of parliamentarism, the futility of “parliamentary illusions” in an era of revolutionary struggle, etc., by explaining the whole thing from the beginning ... We must fight in a revolutionary way for a parliament, but not in a parliamentary way for a revolution; we must fight in a revolutionary way for a strong parliament, and not in an impotent “parliament” for a revolution"" (19)
These contradictory Parliamentarianism attitude in appearance is not comprehended in its dialectical connection, and insidiously used especially by the revisionists in order to confuse. As Lenin noted for Russian case, the attitude should be clarified for the masses to understand it correctly;
" People in Russia are now badly in need of having the relation between parliamentarism and revolution explained to them from the very beginning." (19)
One of the reason for the revolutionary masses fall into disappointment in countries like Turkey is that, even if few, some of the so called leftists enter in the pigsty in compliance with the pigsty owners and becomes a promoter of pigsty even up to the degree of throwing dirt to Stalin in the pigsty and becoming a spokesman for the pigsty. For this reason, Lenin said;
" The party should demand of its parliamentary representatives, ....that they utilize their particularly advantageous political position, not for idle reformist parliamentary talk, which naturally only bores the workers and rouses their suspicion, but for propaganda for the socialist revolution ." (20)
As we can easily see from the above citations, to oppose parliament and parliamentarism in principle is not Leninist but Trotskyite and anarchist approach. Marxist Leninists view the use of parliament as a necessary means to educate the masses, and both, for the parliamentary crisis being an important part of the objective of conditions of revolution, and its direct connection with the revolution, they would not reject the use of parliament. Contrary, Marxist Leninists, as long as the conditions permit they are for the use of Parliament. “how is one to see what is what in the fight between the various parties? Does not this fight, with its fraud and advertising, indicate that representative institutions, parliaments, assemblies of people’s representatives, are in general useless and even harmful, as rabid reactionaries, the enemies of parliamentarism make out? “ asks Lenin, “No.” he responds, “ In the absence of representative institutions there is much more deception, political lying and fraudulent trickery of all kinds, and the people have much fewer means of exposing the deception and finding out the truth.” (Political Parties in Russia, CW V18, P 44)
These words of Lenin below for the required specific "condition " assessment in order to determine the " use or reject of parliament should give a clear idea;
""How can one say that “parliamentarianism is politically obsolete”, when “millions” and “legions” of proletarians are not only still in favour of parliamentarianism in general, but are downright “counter-revolutionary”!? ..
....Parliamentarianism is of course “politically obsolete” to the Communists in Germany; but—and that is the whole point—we must not regard what is obsolete to us as something obsolete to a class, to the masses. Here again we find that the “Lefts” do not know how to reason, do not know how to act as the party of a class, as the party of the masses. You must not sink to the level of the masses, to the level of the backward strata of the class. That is incontestable. You must tell them the bitter truth. You are in duty bound to call their bourgeois-democratic and parliamentary prejudices what they are—prejudices. But at the same time, you must soberly follow the actual state of the class-consciousness and preparedness of the entire class (not only of its communist vanguard), and of all the working people (not only of their advanced elements)." (21)
Taking Advantage of Legal Opportunities During Reaction Period
The petty-bourgeois far-left (always understand this as left opportunists and Trotskyites) approach to the topics, most typically has been in the form of "memorized phrase-mongering" and sloganization of theories regardless of the existing conditions. Generally, their heads buried in the sand defending "illegal struggle " only, they reject all kinds of legal democratic and socialist struggle, and label these struggles as” reformism " in order to prepare the justification and ratification of their escape form the daily struggle.
Lenin characterized the " Otzovists " (those who qualify every legitimate struggle as reformism) for defending the tactics of Bolsheviks in where the revolutionary struggle was higher, rejecting the benefit of legal opportunities in the period of reaction, as the " Caricatures of Bolshevism”.
" To make the task of “strenuously opposing all deals” the pivot of our agitation today means making oneself a caricature of Bolshevism. " . (22)
For the so called far-left”, current conditions and situation," " balance of powers”, “interests of working class and her struggle ", etc. are concepts that has no meaning or importance. For they have become the experts of applying phrase making slogans as templates fitting their far-left subjectivity and drawing the worst cartoons of Bolshevism drawn.
In a similar situation of Turkey, where the far-left was against the Parliamentary struggle with the argument that” All reversion to parliamentary forms of struggle, which have become historically and politically obsolete, must be emphatically rejected..." Lenin responded to the German Communists;
" All reversion to parliamentary forms of struggle, which have become historically and politically obsolete, must be emphatically rejected. . . .”
This is said with ridiculous pretentiousness and is patently wrong. “Reversion” to parliamentarianism, forsooth! Perhaps there is already a Soviet republic in Germany? It does not look like it! How, then, can one speak of “reversion”? Is this not an empty phrase?" (21)
Lenin brings the following example and explanation of the importance of the use of Parliament, especially in reactionary Periods;
" it has been proved that, far from causing harm to the revolutionary proletariat, participation in a bourgeois-democratic parliament, even a few weeks before the victory of a Soviet republic and even after such a victory, actually helps that proletariat to prove to the backward masses why such parliaments deserve to be done away with; it facilitates their successful dissolution, and helps to make bourgeois parliamentarianism “politically obsolete” .
We Bolsheviks participated in the most counterrevolutionary parliaments, and experience has shown that this participation was not only useful but indispensable to the party of the revolutionary proletariat, after the first bourgeois revolution in Russia (1905), so as to pave the way for the second bourgeois revolution (February 1917), and then for the socialist revolution (October 1917). . " (21)
For those who hide behind a far-left mask as an easy way to escape from struggle without being seen as reactionary, Lenin says;
" it is very easy to show one’s “revolutionary” temper merely by hurling abuse at parliamentary opportunism, or merely by repudiating participation in parliaments; it’s very ease, however, cannot turn this into a solution of a difficult, a very difficult, problem."
Criticism—the most keen, ruthless and uncompromising criticism—should be directed, not against parliamentarianism or parliamentary activities, but against those leaders who are unable—and still more against those who are unwilling—to utilise parliamentary elections and the parliamentary rostrum in a revolutionary and communist manner." (21)
Lenin while specifying the difference between those with " either - or " approach who draw a bad caricature of Bolshevism states the following;
" Our tactics are different. We make use of every reform (insurance, for example) and of every legal society. But we use them to develop the revolutionary consciousness and the revolutionary struggle of the masses. ." (23)
The problem is not only to take advantage of legal opportunities for the interests of the revolutionary struggle, it is the assessment of how to take advantage of the opportunities and to what degree. In this regard Lenin says;
"It amuses us to hear the liquidators say, for example, that we are opposed to “freedom of association”, for we not only emphasised the importance of this point of our programme in a special resolution adopted by the January Conference of 1912, but we made ten times more effective use of the curtailed right of association than the liquidators did. . " (23)
What decisive is, taking advantage of legal opportunities within a reformists outlook, or revolutionary outlook. Lenin, in reference to make use of it how the Bolsheviks should use the legal of possibilities gives the example of 1903 1905, 1905-1907 and 1917- 1920 periods:
"1905-07 revolution years. The alternation of parliamentary and non-parliamentary forms of struggle, of the tactics of boycotting parliament and that of participating in parliament, of legal and illegal forms of struggle, and likewise their interrelations and connections—all this was marked by an extraordinary wealth of content. .."
Conference of our Party began to state officially in the name of the Party—that a bourgeois republic with a Constituent Assembly would be better than a bourgeois republic without a Constituent Assembly, but that a “workers’ and peasants’ ” republic, a Soviet republic, would be better than any bourgeois-democratic, parliamentary republic. Without such thorough, circumspect, and long preparations, we could not have achieved victory in October 1917, or have consolidated that victory. "" (24)
Lenin's statement for the years of reaction 1907-1910 is quite valid for the phrase-mongerers who refuses the use of legal opportunities:
"1907-10 reactionary years, Tsarism was victorious. All the revolutionary and opposition parties were smashed.
Of all the defeated opposition and revolutionary parties, the Bolsheviks effected the most orderly retreat, with the least loss to their “army”, with its core best preserved, with the least significant splits (in point of depth and incurability), with the least demoralisation, and in the best condition to resume work on the broadest scale and in the most correct and energetic manner. The Bolsheviks achieved this only because they ruthlessly exposed and expelled the revolutionary phrase-mongers, those who did not wish to understand that one had to retreat, that one had to know how to retreat, and that one had absolutely to learn how to work legally in the most reactionary of parliaments, in the most reactionary of trade unions, co-operative and insurance societies and similar organisations." (24)
While explaining the later years, " revival " period of 1910-1914, Lenin explains the importance of the use of legal opportunities during the years of reaction:
"At first progress was incredibly slow, then, following the Lena events of 1912, it became somewhat more rapid. Overcoming unprecedented difficulties, the Bolsheviks thrust back the Mensheviks, whose role as bourgeois agents in the working-class movement was clearly realized by the entire bourgeoisie after 1905, and whom the bourgeoisie therefore supported in a thousand ways against the Bolsheviks. But the Bolsheviks would never have succeeded in doing this had they not followed the correct tactics of combining illegal work with the utilization of “legal opportunities”, which they made a point of doing. In the elections to the arch-reactionary Duma, the Bolsheviks won the full support of the worker curia. . " (24)
Again, Lenin summarizes the importance of this use during the years of imperialist World War, 1914-1917:
"Legal parliamentarianism, with an extremely reactionary “parliament”, rendered most useful service to the Bolsheviks, the party of the revolutionary proletariat. ." (24)
Whether to use the legal possibilities or not depends on the balance of powers of that particular stage. Where the Leadership, organization's and the struggles of the mass of people at its peak, the use of legal opportunities may (most likely) not be needed. However, when the specific situation, balance of power is against our favor, as the examples given by the Bolsheviks and particularly during the reactionary period, the use of legal opportunities for the interests of socialist revolution is a necessity. Because at times of reaction where the offensive of capital to the working class and to all strata of people, the purposes of revolutionary organization, the cohesion with the masses, gaining their leadership through practical struggle for empowerment, strength and changing the balance of power are dialectically connected.
During the periods of reaction rejection of the use of legal opportunities, (in most cases) does not strengthen the struggle but serves the interests of reaction through the practice of far-left in words, pacifism indeed. Because strengthening of the struggle strictly depends on the movement’s establishment of bonds with the masses whom facing the attacks of reaction and suffering from it. Struggle cannot develop and cannot be strengthened by abandoning the masses. Especially during the years of reaction in order to bond with the masses to take advantage of all legal opportunities for the interests of the struggle is a must. During the years of reaction, Lenin points out;
"The present new conditions require new forms of struggle. The use of the Duma tribune is an absolute necessity. A prolonged effort to educate and organise the masses of the proletariat becomes particularly important. The combination of illegal and legal organisation raises special problems before the Party. "(25)
Lenin summarizes the responsibility of the socialists to the masses and struggle;
"Needless to say, the task of these cells and committees must be to utilize all the semi-legal and as far as possible, legal organisations, to maintain “close contact with the masses”, and to direct the work in such a way that Social-Democracy responds to all the needs of the masses.. (25)
Is there any way to deduce anything else form Lenin's assessments other than that, especially during the years of reaction, it is the task of revolutionaries to utilize every legal possibility for the benefit of revolutionary struggle?
In reference to parliamentarianism as one of the forms of struggle Lenin states;
" Parliamentarism is one form of activity, journalism is another. The content of both can be communist, and it should be communist if those engaged in both spheres are real Communists, are real members of a proletarian mass party. Yet, in neither sphere -- nor in any other sphere of activity under capitalism and during the period of transition from capitalism to Socialism -- is it possible to avoid those difficulties which the proletariat must overcome, those special problems which the proletariat must solve in order to utilize for its own purposes the services of those who have come from the ranks of the bourgeoisie, in order to gain the victory over bourgeois intellectual prejudices and influences, in order to weaken the resistance of (and, ultimately, completely to transform) the petty-bourgeois environment. "
The childishness of those who "repudiate" participation in parliament consists precisely in the fact that they think it possible to "solve " the difficult problem of combating bourgeois-democratic influences within the working-class movement by such a "simple," "easy," supposedly revolutionary method, when in reality they are only running away from their own shadow, only closing their eyes to difficulties and only trying to brush them aside with mere words. . "
.... the attempt to brush aside, to fence oneself off from one of the "unpleasant" problems or difficulties in one sphere of activity is a profound mistake, which will later most certainly have to be paid for. We must study and learn how to master every sphere of work and activity without exception, to overcome all difficulties and all bourgeois habits, customs, and traditions everywhere. Any other way of presenting the question is just trifling, just childishness. "" (26)
Revolutionaries are " hopeful " and in this sense, in this subject, what they want to realize , and the society they believe in, in that sense is a " dream", but they are not "dreamers" when it comes to the concrete conditions and situations", they are realists who rely on the assessment of the concrete situation. Exampling Turkey, in such a reactionary period, where the revolutionary forces are the weakest in their entire history of struggle to reject the utilization of parliament, is similar to a patient who has the possibility of recovery preferring to remain in vegetative state rather than struggling for recovery.
What is most interesting as well is that "head in the sand body outside" Ostriche like some "illegal," left-wing parties such as in Turkey , "the illegal communist party " far-left the phrase-mongering is "left in words" and "pacifist indeed" to a degree that falls to the right of reformists.
In the specific tactical practice for the subject of boycotting or participating in the parliamentary elections, the clear outlining finds itself in the words of Stalin;
"" To accelerate or retard the movement, facilitate or hinder it—such is the field and the limits within which political strategy and tactics can be applied. ""
"" Tactics are a part of strategy, subordinated to and serving it. ..Strategy strives to win the war, or to carry through the struggle, against tsarism let us say, to the end; tactics, on the contrary, strive to win particular engagements and battles, to conduct particular campaigns successfully, or particular operations, that are more or less appropriate to the concrete situation of the struggle at each given moment.
A most important function of tactics is to determine the ways and means, the forms and methods of fighting that are most appropriate to the concrete situation at the given moment and are most certain to prepare the way for strategic success. Consequently, the operation and results of tactics must be regarded not in isolation, not from the point of view of their immediate effect, but from the point of view of the aims and possibilities of strategy..
tactics must not be subordinated to the transient interests of the moment, they must not be guided by considerations of immediate political effect, still less must they desert firm ground and build castles in the air. Tactics must be devised in accordance with the aims and possibilities of strategy.
The function of tactics is primarily to determine— in accordance with the requirements of strategy, and taking into account the experience of the workers' revolutionary struggle in all countries—the forms and methods of fighting most appropriate to the concrete situation of the struggle at each given moment. . "" (27)
Especially during the period of reaction where the revolutionary leadership and organization is weak to utilize the legal opportunities in the interests of working people and their struggle is the integral and inevitable part of revolutionary struggle. At the time of the reactionary period and the unfavorable conditions and balance of power ,to reject every legal form of struggle and to utilize them for the interests of working class and its struggle can only be the work of the left-wing phrase mongerers who draw the worst caricature of Marxism, Leninism.
In the case of Turkey for example, what is proposed behind far-left phrase mongering? Is the current question to replace one ruling party with another, or democracy (even in its bourgeois meaning) against Autocracy? The utopic baseless approach of” either all or nothing" cannot see the difference. In this subject Lenin states;
" In politics utopia is a wish that can never come true—neither now nor afterwards, a wish that is not based on social forces and is not supported by the growth and development of political, class forces.
The less freedom there is in a country, the scantier the manifestations of open class struggle and the lower the educational level of the masses, the more easily political utopias usually arise and the longer they persist. "(28)
Thus, far-left phrase mongers not only pacify the masses but at the same time serve the interests of reaction. Lenin in his speech at the Extra Ordinary 7th Congress of the RCPB says; “we must now write a new Programme of Soviet power and not in any way reject the use of bourgeois parliamentarism. It is a utopia to think that we shall not be thrown back.” At the same congress in another speech he says; “We ought not in any way to give the impression that we attach absolutely no value to bourgeois parliamentary institutions…. we cannot leave the way open for a purely anarchist denial of bourgeois parliamentarism.”
Yes, Parliament is a " pigsty " of the bourgeoisie - especially under autocracy, it has no function at all. But
“. the objective situation, however, was such that on the one hand the revolution was in a state of collapse and declining fast. For the upsurge of the revolution a parliamentary base (even inside a "pigsty") was of tremendous political importance, since extra-parliamentary means of propaganda, agitation and organisation were almost nonexistent or extremely weak." (8)
Lenin's forgotten or overlooked following statement is important to comprehend and take note of;
"Experience has proved that, on certain very important questions of the proletarian revolution, all countries will inevitably have to do what Russia has done. "(24)
There cannot be any revolutionary struggle with catchy phrases, slogans that appeal to petty bourgeois subjectivity. This approach harms the revolutionary struggle because it serves the reaction due to the promotion of passivity. This is precisely the task of Trotskyists stemming from their ideology and their historical servile practice to serve the interests of bourgeoisie.
The argument that there is no difference between an Autocracy and Parliamentary Republic has nothing to do with Marxism-Leninism and its dialectics.
Yes, as Engels points out, " as in a democratic republic, "no less" than in a monarchy, the state remains a "machine for the oppression of one class by another" however " by no means (it) signifies that the form of oppression makes no difference to the proletariat, as some anarchists “teach”.
"A wider, freer and more open form of the class struggle and of class oppression vastly assists the proletariat in its struggle for the abolition of classes in general....For such a republic, without in the least abolishing the rule of capital, and, therefore, the oppression of the masses and the class struggle, inevitably leads to such an extension, development, unfolding, and intensification of this struggle that, as soon as it becomes possible to meet the fundamental interests of the oppressed masses, this possibility is realized inevitably and solely through the dictatorship of the proletariat, through the leadership of those masses by the proletariat. These, too, are "forgotten words" of Marxism for the whole of the Second International, and the fact that they have been forgotten was demonstrated with particular vividness by the history of the Menshevik Party during the first six months of the Russian revolution of 1917. "" (29)
Especially if we talk about the countries where the democratic revolution has not been carried out and completed;
"" To the proletarian the struggle for political liberty and a democratic republic in a bourgeois society is only one of the necessary stages in the struggle for the social revolution which will overthrow the bourgeois system. Strictly differentiating between stages that are essentially different, soberly examining the conditions under which they manifest themselves, does not at all mean indefinitely postponing one’s ultimate aim, or slowing down one’s progress in advance. On the contrary, it is for the purpose of accelerating the advance and of achieving the ultimate aim as quickly and securely as possible that it is necessary to understand the relation of classes in modern society. " (30)
Lenin was emphasizing and summarizing the essence of question in his critique of Bordiga's anti- parliamentarianism;
" Parliament is a product of historical development, and we cannot eliminate it until we are strong enough to disperse the bourgeois parliament. It is only as a member of the bourgeois parliament that one can, in the given historical conditions, wage a struggle against bourgeois society and parliamentarianism. The same weapon as the bourgeoisie employs in the struggle must also be used by the proletariat, of course, with entirely different aims." (6)
The hostility of Trotskyists since 1903 and especially after the revolution against the Bolsheviks and against the revolution -either voluntary or salaried - services to counter revolution is not secret to people who are capable of critical and objective thinking. When Lenin said that whatever Mensheviks of today are, will be of tomorrow, he was not making a statement of prophecy. He was emphasizing the inevitable practical consequence of Trotskyite ideology. With all the variations shaping themselves and fitting the conditions of countries they are in, with their far-left phrase mongering in some, reformist phrasings in others, they keep on serving the counter revolution.
In a country where a functioning parliament does not exist but an autocratic regime reigns, in where almost 100% of population have parliamentary hopes and revolutionary struggle is weak to a degree that almost non-exist , to reject the " parliamentary form of struggle " can only be a Trotskyists counter revolutionary approach in the service of autocracy.
For those who can comprehend, let's leave the words to Lenin;
"There is capitalism and capitalism. There is Black-Hundred-Octobrist (autocratic, reactionary) capitalism and Narodnik (“realistic, democratic”, full of “activity”) capitalism. The more we expose capitalism before the workers for its “greed and cruelty”, the more difficult is it for capitalism of the first order to persist, the more surely is it bound to pass into capitalism of the second order. And this just suits us, this just suits the proletariat.
You think I have fallen into a contradiction? In the beginning of the letter I considered the words “realism, democracy, activity” bad words, and now I find them good? There is no contradiction here; what is bad for the proletariat is good for the bourgeois... " (31)
The critique of parliamentarianism approach is not and should not be a critique just directed against the reformists. The reformist approach is easily visible to everyone who has the basic knowledge of Marxism -Leninism. But the most important and most dangerous ones are those cannot be easily seen due to the "Leninist disguise" directed to the petty bourgeois subjectivity and " a way out of struggle" with " far-left ", "catchy " slogans, and phrase making by those Trotskyites and anarchists. Although they never had and do not have any roots in working masses, historical proven fact that they are very effective in creating confusion among the masses.
The question of parliamentarism, parliamentary struggle should always be taken in direct connection with the existing condition and situation of that given period , based on the strength or weakness of revolutionary struggle - the degree of the parliamentary illusion of the masses- at that moment and always the interests of the working class and their struggle in mind. As Lenin puts it; “ It is naive to take parliamentarism “in its pure form”, as an “idea”, isolated from the real situation” (32). The approach - without denying some possible exceptions- will be contradictory in periods where the revolutionary situation exists and where it does not. Based on the experience of Russian revolution, it is safe to say that the Marxist-Leninist approach follows the logic of” parliamentary struggle - uprising - gaining the majority in parliament - uprising - proletarian dictatorship (or worker-peasant dictatorship in some cases).
A summary of various articles on the subject during the last ten years.
July 2020 , E.A
Index of PDF files and notes;
Attached articles have been organized based on the years – index based on the introduction.
Early Writings Pre 1903
The tasks of the Russian Social Democrats P44
The years of preparation of the revolution (1903-05)
The Principal Stages in the History of Bolshevism (24) P74
Autocracy and Proletariat (30) P81
The years of revolution (1905–07)
Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution (12) P92
Victory of the Cadets & the Tasks of the Workers’ Party (18) P97
To: A. V. Lunacharsky 156 (19) P144
Guerrilla Warfare (2) P147
An Appeal to the Party by Delegates to the Unity Congress Who Belonged to the Former “Bolshevik” Group (11) P151
A New Uprising P158
Postscript to the Article: “The Social-Democrats and the Election Campaign” P166
The Social-Democrats and the Election Agreement” (7) P169
The Vulgar Bourgeois Representation of Dictatorship and Marx’s View of It P493
Attitude Towards the State Duma P506
On the Question of the Attitude To the State Duma (32) P519
The Role and Significance of a Cadet Duma P527
The years of reaction (1907–10)
Lenin, On the Road (25) P171
A Caricature of Bolshevism (22) P183
The Faction of Supporters of Otzovism and God-Building (16) P199
The years of revival (1910–14)
Letter to Maxim Gorky (31) P240
Two Utopias (28) P245
The Historical Destiny of the Doctrine of Karl Marx (1) P251
Report of the C.C. of the R.S.D.L.P. to the Brussels Conference and Instructions to the C.C. Delegation (23) P256
The First Imperialist World War (1914–17)
What Has Been Revealed By the Trial of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Duma Group (9) P308
Tasks of the Left Zimmerwaldists in the Swiss Social-Democratic Party (20) P324
Junius, The crisis of Social- Democracy P338
The Socialist Revolution and the Struggle for Democracy P346
Lenin, To: Inessa Armand (3) P349
The second revolution in Russia (February to October 1917)
A Proletarian Militia (5) P351
Abolition of Parliamentarism (15) P356
Heroes of Fraud and the Mistakes of the Bolsheviks (14) P364
The Mistakes Of Our Party (8) P375
The State: A Lecture Delivered at the Sverdlov University (4) P384
Material for the Second Congress of the Communist International (10) P408
Lenin, Letter to Sylvia Pankhurst (17) P414
Should We Participate in Bourgeois Parliaments? (21) P422
Speech on Parliamentarism (6) P435
Incorrect conclusions from Concrete premises (26) P440
Lenin, Draft Programme of the R.C.P.(B.) (13) P447
Stalin, Concerning the Question of the Strategy and Tactics of the Russian Communists (27) P456
The 1891 Preface to Marx's "The Civil War in France" P477
State and revolution, Controversy with the Anarchists (29) P487