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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Communist Party is the Vanguard of the Working Class: Marx, Engels, Lenin

From Socialism: Theory and Practice, August 1983:

In their works Marx, Engels and Lenin discussed in detail the role of the proletarian party, its ideological and organizational foundations, its historical mission of accomplishing the socialist revolution and building socialism. A selection of statements made by Marx, Engels and Lenin about the proletarian party and its role in the social remaking of the world are published below.

An Organization Uniting the Masses

- In its struggle against the combined power of the propertied classes the working class can act as a class only by organizing itself into a specific political party opposed to all the old parties created by the propertied classes. -- K. Marx and F. Engels, Resolution of the Conference of Delegates of the Working Men's Association, 1871.

- The Communists are distinguished from the other working-class parties by this only:

1. In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality. 2. In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole. -- K. Marx and F. Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, 1848.

- For the proletariat to be strong enough to win on the decisive day it must -- and Marx and I have advocated this over since 1847 -- form a separate party distinct from all others and opposed to them, a conscious class party. -- F. Engels, Letter to Gerson Trier, December 18, 1889.

- In its struggle for power the proletariat has no other weapon but organization... The proletariat can, and inevitably will, become an invincible force only through its ideological unification on the principles of Marxism being reinforced by the material unity of organization, which welds millions of toilers into an army of the working class. -- V. I. Lenin, One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, 1904.

The Tasks of the Revolutionary Struggle

- The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all the other proletarian parties: formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat...

...Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.

WORKERS OF ALL COUNTRIES, UNITE! -- K. Marx and F. Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, 1848.

- We take our stand entirely on the Marxist theoretical position...It made clear the real task of a revolutionary socialist party: not to draw up plans for refashioning society, not to preach to the capitalists and their hangers-on about improving the lot of the workers, not to hatch conspiracies, but to organize the class struggle of the proletariat and to lead this struggle, the ultimate aim of which is the conquest of political power by the proletariat and the organization of a socialist society. -- V. I. Lenin, Our Programme, 1899.

The Pledge of Socialism’s Victory

- One of the necessary conditions for preparing the proletariat for its victory is a long, stubborn and ruthless struggle against opportunism, reformism, social-chauvinism, and similar bourgeois influences and trends, which are inevitable, since the proletariat is operating in a capitalist environment. If there is no such struggle, if opportunism in the working-class movement is not utterly defeated beforehand, there can be no dictatorship of the proletariat. Bolshevism would not have defeated the bourgeoisie in 1917-19 if before that, in 1903-17, it had not learned to defeat the Mensheviks(1), i.e., the opportunists, reformists, social-chauvinists, and ruthlessly expel them from the party of the proletarian vanguard. -- V. I. Lenin, The Constituent Assembly Elections and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, 1919.

(1) Mensheviks -- a reformist petty-bourgeois trend in Russian social democracy that emerged in 1903 at the RSDLP Congress. During the election of the Party’s central organs the Mensheviks, who opposed Lenin's principle of building a new-type party, found themselves in the minority (menshinstvo in Russian, hence their name).

The Mensheviks distorted Marxist teaching, emasculating its revolutionary essence. During World War I (1914-1918) most of the Mensheviks took the social chauvinist stand. In 1917 they supported the bourgeois Provisional Government and after the October Revolution (1917) participated in the struggle against Soviet power.

- We must firmly submit our slightest doubts for the class conscious workers, for our Party to judge. We trust our Party. We see in it the intelligence, honour and conscience of our times...-- V. I. Lenin, Political Blackmail, 1917

- We, the Bolshevik Party, have convinced Russia. We have won Russia from the rich for the poor, from the exploiters for the working people. Now we must administer Russia. And the whole peculiarity of the present situation, the whole difficulty, lies in understanding the specific features of the transition from the principal task of convincing the people and of suppressing the exploiters by armed force to the principal task of administration...

We must fully realize that in order to administer successfully, besides being able to convince people, besides being able to win a civil war, we must be able to do practical organizational work. This is the most difficult task, because it is a matter of organizing in a new way the most deep-rooted, the economic, foundations of life of scores of millions of people. And it is the most gratifying task, because only after it has been fulfilled (in the principal and main outlines) will it be possible to say that Russia has become not only a Soviet, but also a socialist, republic. -- V. I. Lenin, The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government, 1918.

- Communists should know that, in any case, the future belongs to them; therefore, we can (and must) combine the most intense passion in the great revolutionary struggle, with the coolest and most sober appraisal of the frenzied ravings of the bourgeoisie. -- V. I. Lenin, “Left-Wing” Communism - an Infantile Disorder, 1920.

- We see in the independent, uncompromisingly Marxist party of the revolutionary proletariat the sole pledge of socialism's victory and the road to victory that is most free from vacillations -- V. I. Lenin, A Militant Agreement for the Uprising 1905

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