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The State and Revolution: a Case Study in the Genesis and Transformation of Communist Ideology

  • Robert V. Daniels (a1)

By common agreement among virtually all political complexions, Lenin's State and Revolution is accepted as the core of his doctrine of revolution and the proletarian dictatorship. A striking indication of the importance and contemporary relevance attributed to the work has been its use as evidence in the trials of the leaders of the American Communist party for conspiring to overthrow the government. And to the present Soviet commentator no less than to his bitterest adversary, State and Revolution sets up the premises from which the Soviet reality of today is considered to be the logical conclusion.

Yet this reasoning cannot be sustained on the basis of logic alone. State and Revolution is a work conforming neither to Lenin's previous thought nor to his subsequent practice. It stands as a monument to its author's intellectual deviation during the year of revolution, 1917.

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1 The preparation of this article was supported by the Russian Research Center of Harvard University, at which the author was formerly a Research Fellow.

2 State and Revolution (New York, 1932), pp. 9192.

3 lbid., pp. 28-29. Lenin is arguing for the leadership of Marxists as against opportunists, and asserts, “By educating a workers’ party, Marxism educates the vanguard of the proletariat… .” The latter term as well, though a familiar element of Communist jargon, is rarely used by Lenin here; he speaks simply of “the proletariat.“

4 Lenin, , Collected Works (New York, 1929), II, Book II, 208.

5 “Pis'mo k tovarišču o našikh organizacionnykh zadačakh,” Sočinenija (4th ed., Moscow, 1946-1950), VI, 221.

6 Protokoly s'ezdov i konferencij vsesojuznoj kommunistitčeskoj partii(b) Devjatyj s'ezd RKP(b) (Moscow, 1934), p. 532.

7 Protokoly, … : Desjatyj s'ezd RKP(b), (Moscow, 1933), p. 128.

8 This interpretation has been developed at length by the present author in adoctoral dissertation, “The Left Opposition in the Russian Communist Party,to 1924,” Harvard University, 1950.

9 Leninskij Sbornik (Moscow, Lenin Institute, 1924), II, 284, note 7. This volume was published under the editorial direction of Leo Kamenev, who at that time was included together with Bukharin among the political “ins” of the Communist Party.

10 Ibid., pp. 282-83.

11 Bukharin originally wrote this article in the middle of 1916 with the intention of publishing it in the semi-periodical Sbornik Sotsial-Demokrata edited by Lenin, but the article was rejected. It ultimately appeared in 1925 in Revoljucija prava (Moscow, Communist Academy), Sbornik I. In a note attached to the article at the time of publication (p. 5, note 1), Bukharin advanced as the explanation for the original rejection the surmise that the editorial board “did not consider it possible to publish the article because it felt that there were developed here incorrect views about the state.” In contrast to this, Lenin said in his letter to Kollontay of February, 1917 (Leninskij Sbornik, II, 283), that it was simply the lack of funds which prevented the publication of the next number of the Sbornik, in which Bukharin's article was already scheduled to be included. This may indicate that Lenin was moving towards Bukharin's left-wing position faster than the latter thought.

12 Revoljucija prava, I, 21.

13 Ibid., p. 30.

14 Ibid., p. 26.

15 Ibid., p. 30.

16 Ibid., pp. 31-32.

17 State and Revolution, p. 96.

18 “Imperializm i zadaŹi proletariata,” published in Russian translation in Lenin's journal Komtmmist No. 1-2 (Geneva, 1915), p. 74. Strangely enough, the ideas which it developed seem not to have come to Lenin's own attention until Bukharin took them up later.

19 “Massenaktion undRevolution,” Die Neue Zeit, July 12, 19, and 26, 1912. This article had muchdirect influence on Lenin at the end of 1916, as the materials in Leninskij Sbornik, Vol. XIV, indicate.

20 Carew-Hunt, R. N., The Theory and Practice of Communism: An Introduction (New York, 1951), pp. 6465.

21 Revoljucija prava, I, 7.

22 State and Revolution, pp. 1011.

23 The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State (Chicago, 1902), p. 206.

24 Ibid., p. 208.

25 Ibid., p. 207.

26 The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (New York, 1926), pp. 130–31.

27 The Civil War in France (Chicago, n.d.), p. 42.

28 Ibid., p. 47.

29 Ibid., p. 42.

30 ibid., pp. 45–48.

31 The Civil War in France (New York, 1940), p. 20.

32 Ibid., p. 21.

33 Ibid.

34 State and Revolution, p. 37.

35 Ibid., p. 52.

36 Will the Bolsheviks Retain State Power?Collected Works (New York, 1932), XXI, Book II, 33.

37 Sočinenija (3rd ed., Moscow, 1935), XXIII, 36.

38 Stalin, , “Foundation of Leninism” (1924), in Leninism (New York, 1928), pp. 169-70.

39 lbid.

40 Political Report to the Sixteenth Party Congress (1930), Leninism (New York, 1933), II, 402.

41 Report to the Seventeenth Party Congress” (1934), Problems of Leninism (English ed., Moscow, 1940), pp. 517–18.

42 Ibid., p. 518.

43 Stalin, , “On the Draft Constitution of the USSR,” Problems of Leninism (Moscow, 1940), pp. 564–67.

44 M. Mitin, “O likvidacii klassov v SSSR i socialističeskom, vsenarodnom gosudarstve,” Pod znamenem Marksizma, No. 5 (1936), p. 8.

45 Problems of Leninism (Moscow, 1940), pp. 656–63.

46 See, for example, the collection Učenie Lenina-Stalina o gosudarstve (Voronez, 1940).

47 “Lenin i Stalin o gosudarstve i prave,” Bol'ševik, No. 1 (1939), p. 34.

48 “V. I. Lenin o sovetskom gosudarstve,” Voprosy filosofii, No. 2 (1950).

49 “On Marxism in Linguistics,” Pravda, June 20, 1950; translated in the Current Digest of the Soviet Press, July 17, 1950.

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Slavic Review
  • ISSN: 1049-7544
  • EISSN: 2326-4985
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