Read this article to learn about Lenin’s View on Social Revolution.
Lenin was never an orthodox theoretician. His purpose of analysing party was to bring about a revolution for the emancipation of the working class. In his judgment only party could achieve this task. The revolution of 1905 taught him this valuable lesson.
Now what we call revolution, interpreters of Lenin’s political ideas and philosophy call it social revolution. Social revolutions are vital turning-points in history. They change the whole social, economic and political structure of society. Social revolution means fundamental change in the whole social system.
It implies a qualitative leap in the development of society resulting in the replacement of one social economic formation by another. It is a deep-going upheaval. It not only replaces one ruling class by another, but abolished old relation of production and introduces new ones and radically changes social views and institutions.
Social revolution or revolution as it may also be called is quite different from ordinary bourgeois revolution. In the latter, one class of rulers is replaced by another class while the whole political and economic structure remains intact.
A bourgeois revolution never touches the economic system of society and, more particularly, the relations of production. Lenin thought that social revolution could only be the goal of working class.
In their writings both Marx and Engels gave primary importance to the objective condition of social revolution. Both of them were also convinced that subjective conditions were also necessary. However, Lenin elaborately discussed both the subjective and objective factors of social revolution. But it would be wrong to hold that both objective and subjective factors are quite different and they work separately. These two elements of social revolution are intimately connected.
Following Marx and Engels Lenin had said that to make revolution possible there must be a revolutionary situation. What is revolutionary situation? Revolutionary situation arises when the contradictions between classes became extremely actuate. Not only this, the working class will utilize this revolutionary situation.
An interpreter of Lenin’s philosophy says:
“A revolutionary situation is a build-up of social political conditions necessary for revolution”. The symptoms of revolutionary situation may change at various stages of history, but in all cases it presupposes a profound crisis in the old system.
Lenin in his The Collapse of the Second International published in 1915 has defined these symptoms in the following way:
(a) A crisis in the upper classes, a crisis in the policy of the ruling classes, when it is impossible to maintain their rule without any change,
(b) The suffering of the oppressed classes and their wants has grown more acute. That is, suffering would be intolerable,
(c) Because of the above factors there would arise increasing activities of the masses.
In some writings Lenin has also pointed out another objective element of social revolution. The rise and growing strength of capitalism forged an alliance which may appropriately be called unholy alliance between capitalism and state power. In order to overcome the growing and uncontrollable crisis, capitalism sought the assistance of state power. But this ultimately could not provide any relief.
On the contrary, crisis in capitalism began to advance rapidly. Again, a contradiction became inevitable between the growing capitalist system and working class. This is chiefly due to the social character of capitalism and capitalist production relation.
To sum up, the conflict between the social character of capitalism and its old production relation produced the most favourable objective condition of revolution.
The rapid progress of capitalism also brought about another situation. The capitalist world was divided. In order to maximize profits the capitalists came into conflict with each other and this to a considerable extent eroded their power of exploitation and domination.
The conflict among the capitalists finally weakened the very foundation of the capitalist system. This appeared to the working class as an opportunity. The weakness of capitalism is the strength of the working class.
Objective conditions are no doubt necessary but not sufficient for social revolution. Revolution may not always take place even in the presence of objective conditions.
Lenin has said that there were revolutionary situations in Russia both in 1859-1861 and in 1879-1880, but no revolutions occurred in those years. This is due to the fact that for the occurrence of a revolution there shall be a juxtaposition of both objective are subjective conditions.
Talking about the abortive 1905 revolution Lenin has pointed out that in that year the objective revolutionary condition existed, but the attempts of the revolutionaries could not succeed.
The defeat of a revolution may be due to several causes, including an unfavourable balance of class forces. But even with the balance well in its favour a revolution will not be victorious if there is not a sufficiently mature subjective factor. For the success of revolution the revolutionary class shall be prepared to make any sort and amount of sacrifice.
This is the most important subjective precondition of social revolution. Lenin has cautioned that a revolution will never occur automatically. History has taught us that the workers shall organize themselves and must be imbued with a revolutionary zeal.
There are few subjective conditions and the important of them are:
(1) Revolutionary consciousness of the masses, their readiness and determination to carry through the struggle to the end. The readiness and determination of masses are vital because only the people carry out the practical tasks of revolution, while the leaders give them directions. The anti-revolutionary and counter-revolutionary forces first throw their attack against the common people to frustrate their courage.
(2) The organisation of masses and their vanguard make possible the victory of revolution. In our earlier section we have pointed out why Lenin was determined to form a centralized, strong, effective party for revolution. He was of opinion that left to themselves mass cannot do anything. They must be guided by a vanguard party.
All the revolutionary forces must be united. This is an important subjective precondition. The capitalist’s forces may be divided, but in their attack against proletarians they are united. So to fight the capitalists the revolutionary forces must forge a unity.
(3) Finally, the leadership of the party must be experienced and trained. Otherwise the battle against the bourgeoisie shall be abortive. It is the duty of the leadership to find out a correct strategy and adopt pragmatic tactics. Lenin emphasised leadership on the ground that because of the lack of experience and political consciousness common people cannot select the night strategy.
Relation between the Two:
A common allegation against Lenin’s theory of revolution is that while Marx and Engels laid emphasis on the objective preconditions of revolution, Lenin emphasised the subjective preconditions and by doing this Lenin not only revised Marxism but also distorted it. This allegation is wrong root and branch. Both Marx and Engels were quite aware of the importance of both these preconditions.
In many of their writings they, have clearly stated that for the success of revolution objective conditions are essential no doubt, but they cannot be mechanically separated from the subjective conditions, and if any attempt is made in that direction that will be the grossest distortion of Marxism.
They said that the crisis in capitalism alone could not bring about revolution. The working class shall utilize it and for that they must acquire consciousness and build up organisation. Engels pointed out this in 1889. He advised workers to form revolutionary party.
The authors of the Fundamentals of Marxist-Leninist Philosophy make the following observation: Social revolution demands unity of objective and subjective conditions. This law of social revolution had been confirmed by all revolutions and particularly by three Russian revolutions of the 20th century.
After the First World War (1914-1918), revolution in some of the countries in Europe could not succeed although in those countries there were either objective or subjective condition. But the presence of both of them is essential for revolution.
In those countries there could not form powerful and widespread mass communist parties or revolutionary parties based on communism. The absence of leadership, Lenin thought, was also another factor. The working class in these countries was exploited, but the powerful capitalist class through various techniques suppressed their discontent.
“In view of the historical conditions Lenin produced a comprehensive study of the role of subjective factor in the struggle for affecting a socialist revolution”
Some bourgeois ideologists acknowledge the growing role of subjective preconditions. But Lenin attacks this stand. He is of opinion that for a successful revolution the subjective preconditions must be combined with the mature objective preconditions.
Lenin further says that subjective condition does not simply mean the conspiratorial activities of some terrorist groups. Behind every revolutionary step there shall be the approval of mass. The basic law of social revolution is that the subjective factor shall be combined with objective conditions and no one can deny this basic law.