.The Proletariat Ascendant
(A hint of what to expect in the next 50 years)
You've heard about it, here it is:
The cyberLeninist Manifesto
The principle of "information wants to be free"
fits Leninism as a bullet does a rifle
in what turns out to be
the ultimate nightmare for the bourgeoisie.
Leninism, as a continuation of the practical
and theoretical work of Karl Marx,
had two stages in the period while Lenin was alive.
The period from Lenin's death to approximately the present period
has represented the third stage of Leninism.
Now, as the coming revolution in digital communications
promises to link-up class-conscious workers in every country,
we are entering the fourth stage.
- Leninism I . . . . . . (1896 - 1917)
- Building a party that withstood repression
and fought emergent social-democracy
- Leninism II . . . . . (1917 - 1923)
- State power under harsh conditions
- Leninism III . . . . (1924 - approximately today)
- Leninism in the hands of its enemies
- Leninism IV . . . . (after the fall of the Soviet Union
and the development of the web)
- Classical Leninism plus "information wants to be free"
Beam me up, Scotty
Building a party that withstood repression
and fought emergent social-democracy
he period from the late 1890's until 1917 represents the first stage of Leninism, in which Lenin developed the outlines of a party of a new type--able to maintain extensive ties with the workers (create, publish and widely distribute in illegal conditions an underground press--build underground organizations of workers in the factories capable of organizing strikes and other actions) and carry out a complete program of revolutionary work despite heavy repression from the Tsarist government. During this period Lenin led the fight against social-democracy--which got its start in life as most of the mainstream leaders of the marxist movement in Europe betrayed the proletariat, went over to the side of the bourgeoisie and supported the mutual slaughter of worker by worker now known as the first world war.
State power under harsh conditions
he period after the conquest of state power in October 1917 represents the second stage of Leninism. During this period the survival of the young revolution, (engaged in a brutal civil war and international intervention, surrounded by enemies and in the midst of a population which--after the defeat of the white armies by 1921--grew increasingly restless and disenchanted with the existing misery, hunger and general harsh conditions and engaged in a series of armed revolts) necessitated a series of emergency measures in which all political opposition to the bolsheviks, whether representing the efforts of the international bourgeoisie or the misguided strivings of petty bourgeois trends (which would have worked to the advantage of the bourgeoisie and ushered in bourgeois rule), was ruthlessly suppressed.
he harsh conditions during this period necessitated that the "normal" democratic rights associated with bourgeois democracy, such as freedom of the press and freedom of political association, were suspended for the entire population and even for members of Lenin's own bolshevik party. Any election during this period would have proven that the popular support the bolsheviks had initially enjoyed had long since eroded. The bolsheviks were living atop a lighted stick of dynamite. The revolutionary government had the right and the duty to carry out these repressive measures, as emergency measures for a temporary period of time. But such measures, necessary as they were, constituted a grave and severe threat to the long-term health of the revolution and led to its eventual suffocation.
uring this period, many serious mistakes were made. Some mistakes, such as the practice of confiscating from peasants, at gunpoint, all grain beyond the most minimal necessary for survival, were recognized and repudiated by Lenin in March 1921. But Lenin did not have time to recognize from practice and correct all the mistakes of this period, nor to lead the transition away from the temporary emergency repressive measures and toward a more open system allowing workers to more freely organize, improvise and experiment politically and economically from below and learn from their own mistakes. Lenin was incapacited by a series of strokes beginning in May 1922 and his political life was over in less than a year. Two months before his stroke, however, in his last major address to the party, Lenin warned the 11th Party Congress that "History knows all sorts of metamorphoses" and that "the real and main danger" was that the party might degenerate along bourgeois lines but retain "communist flags inscribed with catchwords stuck all over the place".
And this, in a very approximate way, is what happened.
Leninism in the hands of its enemies
istory has not necessarily made clear whether conditions existed for the 1917 revolution to defeat its enemies and reach the stage where it could have afforded the relaxation of the restrictions on independent political activity which would have been necessary for its long-term health.
Possibly with a few good harvests and some restoration of the economy the bolsheviks would have had enough of a breathing space to begin the process of opening things up.
n the other hand, if--after several years--it became clear that such conditions did not exist--that the population was not ready to undertake the sacrifices necessary for economic development on a voluntary basis (ie: without severe repression and the continued denial of essential democratic rights)--a correct course for the bolsheviks to take may have been to prepare for a retreat from power. If long-term repression of the population was a necessity of economic development--it may have been better to have let the bourgeoisie undertake this task--and to take the credit for it also--rather than to allow generations of workers to associate "communism" with a permanant, repressive police-state.
hile it may not be possible to know for certain whether conditions existed for the long-term success of the revolution and a gradual thaw of repressive measures--it can be said that historically--this is not what happened. Instead, following Lenin's death, the bolshevik leadership began to become increasingly and narrowly preoccupied with its own immediate survival. The easing of the repression of "normal" democratic rights appears to never have been put on the agenda. By the late 1920's or early 1930's it was becoming more clear that the revolution had been compromised and its principles betrayed. A new class of privileged functionaries acquired a permanent existence and--to complete the process--in the mid and late 1930's the bulk of the bolshevik leaders of Lenin's time were shot.
uring this period, Leninism continued to evolve--but it evolved in the hands of its enemies. Leninism was mummified and turned into a set of dead dogmas by the counter-revolution. The principles for which Lenin had fought were codified and transformed into a political religion given the name "Marxism-Leninism" (a phrase never used by Lenin). All of the temporary emergency repressive measures taken during the time of greatest emergency and hardship were enshrined as permanent features of the "proletarian" dictatorship. The workers' political party must not, it was proclaimed, ever have different sections organized on the basis of differing political views or overall assessment. No real debate, involving the masses, on issues of fundamental principle could ever be allowed. All political life must be channeled thru and approved by a supreme directing center--a single point of control. Political life itself was seen as a severe threat and the greatest necessity was for society to be completely inert politically--to be politically dead.
Classical Leninism plus
"information wants to be free"
his brings us to the fourth stage of Leninism: Leninism not only as it is neeeded today but as it would have evolved in the event that the 1917 revolution had not been suffocated but instead had been successful. This stage of Leninism would have brought about genuine proletarian democracy--a phenomena that historically has only existed fleetingly and never in any developed sense. This stage of Leninism would correspond to the objective requirements of developing a complex economy via worker initiative and would involve a ceaseless search for bottom-up methods by which the interdependent (simultaneously competing as well as cooperating) economic and political actions of many thousands and millions of workers would at all levels be an indispensable component of orderly and planned (as well as chaotic and unplanned) economic development.
propose that this fourth stage be called cyberLeninism. CyberLeninism would be those principles corresponding to the objective necessity for organizing a complex economy under modern conditions--free of the rule of the market or the laws of commodity production. CyberLeninism corresponds to the unleashing of mass initiative in the period where information goods and services will dominate the economy.
yberLeninism represents the repudiation of the third stage of Leninism (ie: Leninism in the hands of its enemies, Leninism as a political religion, Leninism as "Marxism-Leninism") and goes back to the basic living principles for which both Marx and Lenin fought.
yberLeninism involves the explicit addition, to classical Leninism, of the principle of "information wants to be free". In a modern, developed, complex society, the principle of "information wants to be free" fits classical Leninism as a bullet does a rifle --and in the age in which information is increasingly flowing in ways which cannot be stopped--restores to Leninism the status of a weapon which, in the hands of the proletariat, will prove to be invincible.
.Beam me up, Scotty
This site created by Ben Seattle (also known as
Recently I put together a useful index to my current (and past) work including the email lists that I run, my theoretical work and my work with digital infrastructure. You are welcome to check this index out at http://struggle.net/ben
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.Beam me up, Scotty
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.Beam me up, Scotty