Changes ahead and some initial thoughts on Lenin and Nepal on elections

I have been unable to write any new blog entries since last week as my laptop died. The motherboard simply died. I still have to retrieve my old hard drive and data. However, I am now the proud owner of a brand spanking new laptop. So as part of getting this new laptop, and at the insistence of some who know me, I have decided to slowly overhaul the look of the blog. This is not going to happen immediately or any time before the middle of May, but it will happen.

Anyways, since none of you are reading this blog to hear about my laptop woes or ever cared about the look of the blog, I should probably start talking (nonsensically to most readers) about “politics”. I have been involved in the Canadian Federal Boycott Campaign, initiated by the RCP(Canada), and their allies and would like to give some initial thoughts about two of the basic objections that I have encountered in my discussions with others in the broad Left about the campaign itself: 1) Lenin denounced abstentionist/strategic electoral boycott politics and the wholesale rejection of the Labor Party as a form of ultra-leftism or left-wing communism and; 2) that a strategic boycott campaign is out of step with other Maoist formations like the UCPN(Maoist) who have in recent years sought to utilize the parliamentary arena to promote their political views and a tool by which to organize the masses.

On Lenin: First of all, I have to say the fact that I am having to explain why I differ from Lenin on an issue like electoral strategy demonstrates to me that we in the Left have ceased to critically think about what a living Marxism actually looks like and have reduced it to dogma. I didn’t realize that all of Lenin’s works were sacred texts and that Lenin’s word was akin to that of God’s. The fact that we cannot discuss the issue of whether there should a federal election boycott without the “Leninist” starting the conversation with a smug smile and the obvious air of arrogance which happens to be predicated on some weird conformity to Lenin’s views on electoral strategy in Britain in 1920 is evidence enough of what is wrong with the Left. Secondly, “Left-wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder” has been trotted out repeatedly by those who could be best be called crypto-social democrats as way of refuting any politics or actions that they disagree with; for example, Khruschev in 1960, during the Great Debate with Mao, ordered that the pamphlet be reprinted to remind Mao of his political deviations. Thirdly,  I do know my Lenin. I also did the background reading which includes the social history of British politics in the 1920’s. So I must ask my “Leninist” friends two simple questions: 1) where is the our contemporary stewards movement? and 2) what about the fact that the entire adventure of the CPGB into the Labor Party was a dismal failure?

I think that we need to recognize that the conditions in which bourgeois parliamentary elections now occur are incredibly different from those in  which Lenin was writing, especially with the development of a massive electoral-media machinery. These are no longer the days in which electoral campaigns consisted in hours of rabble-rousing oratory from a soapbox to workers in a square. We need to recognize that Lenin is talking about a Labor Party that was still braying a social-democratic message and had yet to be elected which thus helped produce electoral illusions amongst the working classes. Lenin thus advised the British comrades that they may have to follow the path used in Russia and Germany by which to demonstrate that the social-democrats were in fact an anti-working class party which would aid in the development of the revolutionary movement. I do not think that the Canadian working classes harbour any illusions about the NDP and its Blairite “Third-Way” faux social-democratic message and thus see no reason to promote these illusions amongst the working class either! The entire point of Lenin’s strategy was to aid in the disillusionment of the Labor Party through support for them. Today large swathes of the working class are already disillusioned with the NDP. Also we must remember that the Labor Party of the 1920’s was a very different party than the NDP today, for example, the NDP’s base basically consists of labor and party bureaucrats and does not have any mass participation in it, whereas the Labor Party in 1920 contained within it a very strong section of the active stewards movement which was connected to thousands of militant workers who had been part of mass strike waves in the years prior. Finally we need to recognize that the CPGB’s efforts in the Labor Party did not result in the development of a stronger communist party but rather, a weaker communist party. Indeed from the get-go the Communist Party was blocked from being involved in the Labor Party and finally was forced to tell its members to join the Labor Party as individuals and to then reconsolidate once within the Labor Party. This wonderful strategy made it incredibly easy for the CPGB to lose members and remain a largely ineffective force within the Labor Party, and despite being a large force were finally purged from the Labor Party. Similarly, the Canadian-Left loves to romanticize the Waffle, but what the hell happened to  them? They were expelled from the NDP and then degenerated into numerous Trot sects. A rousing success indeed!

On Nepal: I did not realize that we lived under a brutal dictatorial monarchy. I mean I have no love for the Queen of England either, but she definitely is not a tyrannical despot who believes herself to be a reincarnation of Vishnu and has underdeveloped the rest of her territories to amass all of the nation’s wealth in her city of residence. The situation in Nepal (and even the Philippines) is dramatically different from that of Canada inasmuch that we have a well-developed and entrenched bourgeois democratic system and they currently do not. It is understandable that in the Nepalese context for the comrades there to promote parliamentary elections inasmuch that the broad masses, peasant and working classes, have yearned for generations for that right and until recently have been consistently denied it. This parallels the situation in Tsarist Russia that Lenin describes in the aforementioned pamphlet. Finally, it is not clear to me that the Nepalese comrades have actually summarized their electoral experience and its role in the development of the revolutionary movement in Nepal as positively as some seem to suggest. In fact, it seems to me that in that in the case of that Party’s ongoing two-line struggle, the largest section of its membership and leadership has attacked and rebuked the parliamentary strategy and has called for a ‘people’s revolt’. Indeed, many argue that the parliamentary strategy and peace process has been a dead-end road and that they are now having to turn the truck on it. Thus, it does not seem clear to me at all that Nepal can be actually be cited as proof in the pudding as to the advisability of other Maoists using the parliamentary process, rather it seems that the warnings of the Indian comrades may have been correct.

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One thought on “Changes ahead and some initial thoughts on Lenin and Nepal on elections

  1. Excellent post: good contextualization of the oft-cited but never historically interrogated piece by Lenin…

    Another thing that bugs me about certain “marxists” who cite this piece in order to justify participation in social democracy (either by encouraging voting or idiot entryism), is that they never bother to read anything that Lenin says about “opportunism.” After all, as your reference to Khruschev implies, when you’re an opportunist everyone else on the left looks “ultra-left.”

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