It Is Sad when people who are well respected in the Left liberal circles and who are one of the most fearless voices of secularism, start slandering Lenin in the most ignorant ways possible. In an article in Indian Express last month Professor Apoorvanand talked about Lenin and claimed that Lenin did not believe in democracy, making Soviet Union a one-party dictatorship, and was responsible for the agony of the Soviet people. He claimed that Lenin is not a good ideal to follow in these times of crises. We are attempting here to respond to some of these assertions.
To respond to the point Apoorvanand makes about democracy, we should start with understanding the meaning of democracy. Marxist Leninists believe that what people understand as democracy is nothing but the dictatorship of the capitalist (ruling) class. We say that the political parties in capitalist countries are just tools of the corporates, so whichever party is elected, it does not matter because the class rule remains the same. This can be easily seen in the context of imperialist counties like America and even in countries under neo-colonial domination like India. It is common knowledge that in America corporates control both leading parties (Republicans and Democrats) and policies are made according to them. For instance, the gun law still remains, global warming is utterly ignored and jails have been privatised because of the corporate interests and there are thousands of examples how the corporates virtually control the whole system. Also the corporate interests were directly responsible for the war on Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Vietnam, Korea etc. in which lakhs of lives were lost.
Elections in capitalist countries do not result in any fundamental change in the lives of the masses. Today in India 1 % super rich controls 73% of the wealth. Since 1991 researches by people like P. Sainath have shown that lakhs of farmers have committed suicide because of pro corporate policies of the Congress and migration on a large scale started in this period. Today when we have a massive human tragedy involving lakhs of workers walking thousands of miles without food, we should remember that the ground for it was laid in the Congress era. Here a simple question arises -- what do we have in India today, people’s rule or corporate rule? Anyone who sees it with open eyes, can see that it is corporate rule and even if the opposition comes to power, it will remain the same. So what we have in the guise of democracy is actually the rule of the corporates.
There is also another basic flaw with Apoorvanand's idea of democracy as it does not consider surplus labour which is extracted from the workers by which the capitalist wealth is created. Also it should be understood that how in countries under neo-colonial domination American imperialism controls polices through World Bank and IMF which are responsible for their impoverishment. As long as this remains, there will be huge income inequality. So saying that you can create a true democracy without removing the loot of the labour and of finance capital is a utopian idea.
Also freedom of speech in these so-called democracies is severely constricted. It exists only until you start organising for a radical change in the class structure. For example where was democracy when thousands of peasants were killed during the Telangana uprising? Or when thousands were killed and jailed during Tehbhaga and Naxalbari movement? Or why did the Congress leaders help the British to pacify the Indian Naval Mutiny in 1946? Why were all the democratic rights dismissed during the emergency? Where was democracy then? It clearly shows that this formal democracy exists only until you start challenging the ruling class.
Marxists believe that this can only be changed if working class along with the peasantry come to power through a revolution. This is what happened in Russia. But Professor Apoorvanand claims that Lenin forcibly took power of the state and that was the end of freedom! He puts it as if it were a coup, but in fact it was a revolution in which overwhelming section of the population took part, books like ’10 days that shook the world’ show this clearly. Yes, the Bolsheviks came to power but Soviets were elected by the people and people had the right to choose their candidates.
His article claims that the poor had gone through great agony in Lenin’s time. But in fact the state gave people freedom from illiteracy and developed a new education system which was praised by people like Nehru, Rabindranth Tagore and Periyar. It abolished poverty, unemployment, provided food security and achieved great heights in women's empowerment by giving women equal rights in every sphere and freedom from domestic work. Great achievements in the fields of science and technology were made and, most importantly, the Soviet Union under Stalin fought against Hitler’s fascism and defeated it.
We can add here one more point about ‘democracy’. Since the Soviet archives have been opened people like Professor Grover Furr and Russian historians like Yuri Zhukov and others have written about the Stalin era in great detail. They have found out that Stalin struggled for more democratic rights and direct democracy in the Soviet Union. Documents including the 1936 constitution show that Stalin fought for free, fair elections and secret ballot system. He had spoken many times about the need to separate the government from the party, he said that the party should only be responsible for agitation and propaganda work. But because of many central committee leaders including Khrushchev who had their vested interests, this could not happen because they voted against these suggestions. After Stalin’s death Soviet Union degenerated into a bureaucratic state. This is well documented in Grover Furr’s book "Stalin and the struggle for democratic reform".
So things clearly aren’t as simple as Apoorvanandji would have us believe. He claims Russia was plunged into famine due to Lenin’s policies. This is the same set of lies which CIA has been peddling since the time of the revolution. We should understand that in those times 14 different capitalist countries attacked Soviet Russia and Russia was a very backward country. This had led to the food shortages and the famine, not Lenin’s policy. Claims that the Russian trials were a sham and a mass show are utterly baseless too. The most famous trials called the Moscow trials have been found to be true. It has been found by researches that in the late thirties there was a serious threat to overthrow the soviet government by German agents along with the ex party members headed by Trotsky. So the evidence was found against the people who were implicated which included party leaders, police officials and army officers. Yes there were accesses many times by the party and the police but they can’t be put all on the head of Lenin or Stalin .
Will sight an example from the book Russian historian Yuri Zhukov who claims that there were a few central committee members in those times who were scared that if the kulaks and others were given voting rights their power would be curbed. This was one of the reasons why many people were wrongly implicated or killed in the 1930s. Stalin had ordered for the arrests and actions based on the reports he was getting about the threats by these first secretaries. Also there was an actual threat to the soviet power as well , as I mentioned above .
Documents have also shown many police and party officials who had wrongly implicated people were also later dealt with by the regime. Yes, there were excesses and there were big blunders made by the leadership and this should be criticized severely, but saying that Russian revolution led to no revolutionary changes is utterly false. Also, the future socialist society which we dream of can only be achieved if we do a scientific analysis of this period and the mistakes that were made.
Also many people who were wrongly convicted or exiled during the early days after revolution and during the 30s were freed by the government after the initial years. It should be added that Gorky’s criticism might be true on many points and the debates between Lenin and Gorky should be well researched. But saying that Gorky believed that Lenin’s times were similar to fascism today, seems absolutely bizarre. The same Gorky praised Stalin and Lenin more than anyone, in fact he was invited back to Soviet Russia by Stalin and he lived their till his death! Gorky wrote one of the best obituaries when Lenin died and it starts like this “Even in the camp of his enemies there are some who honestly admit: in Lenin the world has lost a personality who embodied genius more strikingly than any other great man of his day”.
Apoorvanandji compared the lynching which are happening today in India and which are utterly communal in nature to the class uprising of the peasants against Kulaks who were the blood sucking landlords and who exploited them for centuries. This is just as absurd as it gets. Just to add Soviet society fought against ethnic and racial discrimination too, Paul Robeson the American singer and Boxer Mohammad Ali had talked about this.
The present democracy is actually the dictatorship of a minuscule minority over the vast majority of the population. The democracy that a few liberals like Apoorvanand are afraid of is actually the rule of the vast majority of the population over the tiny section which is the ruling class today. These liberals are content to remain under the dictatorship of the neo-colonial regime but shudder at the idea of being subject to a democracy which is actually the rule of the toiling people on the parasites of society. This shows the class allegiance of these liberals and proves why they cannot be dependable allies of the workers and peasants and the downtrodden masses.
Lastly it should be said that Lenin’s analysis about the fundamentals of imperialism and its plunder remains with us today and is as relevant as ever. This imperialist and capitalist plunder is the reason why we have environmental crises and why we face the challenge of such deadly viruses. Only with this understanding how both fascism and environmental crises are caused by capitalism can we devise a plan to defeat it and this is where Lenin’s ideas find their relevance today.