Having lurked here for well over a year now, I hope that my first post will prove more useful than a mere incitement to shit on Leninists (as this can be done rather casually, and with a lot more enjoyment). What I wanted was to pose instead the following question to all those weary of the claims of Leninists of all shapes and sizes (especially in their Trotskyist forms, as I try to take for granted that the only people that are attracted to stuff further to the right are too nutty to take seriously): do some Leninists sincerely believe in workers self-management? Or rather, how many people who have come to anti-capitalist conclusions and were seduced into the tradition of Leninism do so out of a naive belief that somehow, after a revolution exploited by an external vanguardist organization chock full of "professional revolutionaries" and "iron discipline", a social formation will be created that will one day permit direct democracy in the work place?
Now, obviously, we know that figures like Lenin and Trotsky in the maturity of their revolutionary thought and practice saw in the soviets only a strategic potential; they merely emphasized soviet power to undermine the provisional government. But is it possible that some Leninists, following Lenin's idea of differentiating between the general and the specific, see the Bolshevik repression of the soviets, Petrograd, Kronstadt, etc, as merely a "necessarily" heavy-handed response to a specific historical situation (so as to hasten industrialization, etc.)?
Take for example someone like Alex Callinicos. You'll see this guy using councilist rhetoric left and right, but he carefully abstains from discussing any revolutionary situations in which authentically communist practice butted heads with his favored model of the revolutionary Party. He will say something vague about the necessity of a Party intervening "at the level of society" so as not to get too close to touchy historical situations that might excuse the violence and power used by the Bolsheviks to turn the USSR into an anti-soviet regime. It makes you wonder what is going on in his head as he extols say, Gramsci's youthful writings on the factory councils: does he really believe what he's saying? Or does he merely recognize that nowadays people are extremely suspicious of reactionary rhetoric about iron discipline and so on, so he has to package his Leninism in libertarian wrapping? Or maybe both: he thinks there will be this period of intense revolutionary struggle, terror ("Socialism"), etc. then we eventually enter a period of calm and universal harmony where draconian severity is no longer needed ("Communism"), but that it's still crucial to try to sell Lenin as a libertarian socialist for the sake of publicity?
We all know how powerful the romanticization of the soviet is in revolutionary socialist discourse. But could it be that some Leninists (perhaps the more naive ones) operate on some vague idea of a future where the soviet is the key singular unit for society? Maybe this little mental tidbit is enough to keep such a Leninist subject "working all on its own", as a perverse Althusserian approach might permit?
I'm eager to hear what some people have to say about such matters. Leninists have been known to sometimes "jump ship"; some are initially attracted but find it all too authoritarian and weird. Others are perhaps attracted to the rhetoric and mode of practice. But the slipperiness of the Leninist remains a matter to be discussed, so long as there are Leninists...