Against Leninism by Tom Wetzel ("ideas & action")

Submitted by syndicalist on July 30, 2021

Against Leninism

By Tom Wetzel

A major influence on radical thinking since the Russian revolution is the form of radical politics called Leninism. The name derives from the central role of the Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin in shaping the direction of the Bolsheviks in the revolution. The political legacy of Leninism is directly at odds with syndicalism, as we’ll see. But what is Leninism? To understand this, I think we need to look at the practice of the Bolshevik party in the revolutionary process in Russia and Lenin’s role in shaping that practice.

The practice of the Bolsheviks during the Russian revolution had a major impact on the thinking of many militants in the labor and radical movements in the 1920s and ‘30s. The Bolshevik leadership in Russia sought to bring radicals in other countries under their leadership as part of their strategy to defend the Russian revolution. The Bolsheviks in Russia had changed their party name to “Communist” in 1918 to differentiate themselves from the reformist electoral socialist parties in western Europe. They encouraged their supporters in other countries to form “communist” parties on the model of the Bolshevik party in Russia.

In that period the world syndicalist movement was the major revolutionary force in working class circles outside Russia. This led to a period of debate and political conflict between syndicalists and Communists. About 1919 the Communists set out to win over syndicalist militants to the Communist movement. The Red International of Labor Unions (RILU) was set up in 1921 with the aim of drawing in the syndicalist unions. This initiative was mostly a failure. The suppression of the Russian syndicalist movement in 1921 and the syndicalist critique of Bolshevik practice led to the creation of a syndicalist international in 1922 — the International Workers Association.