“Left-Wing” Communism- An Infantile Disorder by Vladimir Lenin
When I was young my mum always told me to eat my greens. I wasn’t too keen on the idea and rebelled against it with vigour. Obviously, this was a bad idea and due to a lack of nutrients, I shrunk smaller and smaller until I fell down the plughole which was a very harrowing experience that I do not have the time or imagination to describe further. But I learnt a valuable lesson, eat your greens. I recall this childhood memory as I reflect on another lesson I have learnt, read your Lenin. I was probably at one point more sceptical of this than I was of eating broccoli and spinach (this is all a lie, I’ve always loved vegetables), however, looking back at what I have read I can only see studying Lenin as an enlarging experience which has helped to shape my worldviews and fortified my desire to learn and grow.
This particular book covers a lot in its discussions which attempt to highlight the significance of the Russian Revolution (Oct, 1917) on Europe as a whole, as well as exploring questions on the effectiveness of trade unions, electoral politics, compromise and much much more. I really enjoy short books and this is no exception. There was a lot to think about and I have referred back to various sections and found it useful to reflect on key ideas and my own perspective on them, which tends to evolve with time and experience.
One such perspective was my stance on parliamentary politics which has morphed over time to a point where I currently see them as important… to an extent. I have made a big deal out of the likes of Bernie Sanders and Corbyn’s Labour Party in the past and that isn’t because I agree with their politics, but when the Left is so weak it is necessary to build from a broad base to have any hope of progress (hate that word). If nothing else politicians can help people to realise they are for the most part ineffective so there is a greater impetus to engage in the change themselves. More militant and radical groups can help the working class become the leader and increase engagement in issues that impact on the wider population. Europe certainly doesn’t have any political parties that blow me away in their effectiveness or even their values, but an example of broad-based mass mobilisation in recent times would be Bolivia’s Movement for Socialism (MAS) party which managed to return to elected office even after nefarious meddling. How did this happen? The party had the confidence of the people even when out of power (also due to the brutal and morally bankrupt nature of the interim government) and understood that the process does not begin or end with elections. Instead, it should be considered part of a longer-term project of education to develop class consciousness across a constituency, state, country or beyond. Of course, to truly build the confidence of people, policies must be forged in their image and with a clear idea of how they will be implemented.
Beyond all this, it is about preparing for ripe material conditions to take power so the opportunity is not squandered. Although not a complete summation of the contents of this book, these are some of my thoughts that developed through rigorous discussion with the old man who wrote this text. I doubt he would agree with me on certain conclusions I have reached but that’s not the point. Lenin’s writings have definitely contributed to what I believe and how I see the world. That’s a pretty big deal and although I don’t believe in recommending books I hope its impact on me can be recognised and that others have a similar experience with literature of all varieties!
PS Eat your greens xxx