What is to be Done?

In Vladimir Lenin’s What is to be Done?, he articulated his views regarding the composition and organizational structure of the SocialDemocratic Party. He believed that a proper revolution required a small, tightly knit, highly select, and politically well-versed group of individuals at the top to lead the party in the manner they saw most fit. He argued that a true revolutionary is somebody whose profession is that of a revolutionary. This true revolutionary is somebody who can commit their wholehearted time, energy, and passion to the cause, without being simultaneously hampered by the responsibilities of a “regular” job. Lenin asserted that, as the movement gained momentum and increased participation, the need for leadership was evermore present because certain factions may splinter off. He also noted that this group of “true revolutionaries” would be capable of thwarting the opposition’s attempts to undermine the cause because they have been “professionally trained in the art of combating police.” He criticized the Social Democrats who lumped the political struggle in with the “economic struggle against the employers and the government.” He viewed these two movements as important, yet distinct. Lenin believed that the majority of the labor force consisted of people who were uneducated and intellectually incapable of devising, organizing, and implementing the party’s strategic vision. He proposed that a “dozen” experienced revolutionaries should formulate initiatives that allow the other organizations intended for a wide membership to grow and prosper, thus accomplishing the party’s overall goals.

3 thoughts on “What is to be Done?

  1. Sorry, I meant to pose the following question in my post:

    Do you believe that Lenin was at least partially aware of the inherent dangers associated with the creation of this hegemony of “true revolutionaries,” particularly upon the completion of the supposed revolution?

    • It is difficult to say what Lenin thought about the future without talking to the man directly, but I think that he falls under the same category as Marx in this respect. He talks quite a bit about how the revolution should be organized, how they should protest, and what they should ultimately aim for, but little about what to do after the revolution is won. It would have been difficult to see how the future would turn out, especially before World War I. I do think, though, that he was at least slightly aware of the dangers of a rampant revolution, since he had France as a classic example, and he put a lot of emphasis on who should be guiding the revolution.

    • I would agree that Lenin’s goals seem rather short sighted in that respect. As for if he saw the dangers in his plan, I suppose I would surmise that he did, but I don’t really have a way to prove that. Additionally, I also found the article and his ideas of a “true revolutionary” very overly idealistic in terms of how the revolution would actually work. He stated that “the active and widespread participation of the masses will not suffer; on the contrary, it will benefit (Lenin). Usually in a revolution it is in fact the masses that do suffer, while the select few in power benefit. It almost reminded me of the Wealth of Nations excerpt that we read, as it gave an analysis of a general system and claimed how everyone would benefit from it, but failed to mention a few key aspects about the reality.

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