The Actual Beliefs of Lenin and Marx

Jaden Clarke, Staff Writer











Joe Biden is not a socialist. He has not called for the nationalization of any industries, nor centralized economic planning, nor does he want to abolish the profit motive. These are all essential qualities of a socialist. A socialist is not someone who wants to take your guns away, or who will put you in a gulag. The idea that all Leftists are authoritarian is propaganda. This narrative was created by Joseph Stalin and western Capitalists. They wanted to portray a system of belief based on emancipation and liberty as one of tyranny. Most people view Stalin and his atrocities as a natural continuation of Marx and Lenin’s thought. In fact, Stalin perverted and betrayed the goals of his forebears.

     While it is true that Stalin and Mao were evil, they are not in any way representative of the modern left. Most Communists believe we need to destroy current systems of power, namely Capitalism and the State. Many believe this is necessary to achieve a radically democratic society where workers communally own their place of work and the product of their labor. Famous anti-authoritarian Marxists include Angela Davis and Huey P. Newton. Not only do modern day leftists disavow Stalin’s concentration of state power, but so would the pioneers of Communism. 

     Lenin articulated his vision for the Soviets in an address to soldiers. The leader criticized the new “parliamentary Bourgeois republic”. He declares that “All power in the state, from the bottom up, . . . must belong to the Soviets of Workers’” (Lenin). By calling for the dissolution of institutions that limit and oppress the working class, this strategy ensures that the State will not be co-opted by special interests. It also calls for replacing them with workers councils. 

      Marx described a similarly libertarian process of emancipation. However, he viewed this to be the natural progression of history, rather than a political moment we must create. He viewed prior history as the introduction of new limitations and conditions upon personal and political activity. Those bonds make it impossible to fully connect with ourselves, others, and the world around us. He describes “Communism as the end of history,” (Marx) where this process of power centralization, control, and domination is destroyed. That happens when democratic social forums focused on unlimited freedom without the state or Capitalism start to emerge. In The German Ideology he writes: “only in the community is personal freedom possible” (Marx) while explaining how we need to transform society in order to dissolve those restrictions on our social and economic life. This shows how he was committed to maintaining individual liberties and freedoms, unlike Stalin. 

     Following Lenin’s death, Stalin made a “vow to you, Comrade Lenin, we shall fulfil your behest with honor” (Stalin). Under Stalin the Soviet Union ignored the call to “not allow the police to be re-established, do not let the state power or the administration of the state pass into the hands of the bureaucracy” (Lenin). Instead, Stalin established the NKVD, which was so brutal the KGB was its less harsh replacement. He also created a bureaucracy under his personal control. This is exactly what Vladimir warned his comrades against, someone seeking to pervert the revolution so they can  “govern the country by means of the old institutions, namely: the police, the bureaucracy, and the standing army” (Lenin). Stalin instead identifies such institutions as the bedrock of the Soviets: “The third basis of the dictatorship of the proletariat is our Red Army and our Red Navy” (Stalin). Stalin describes his own views and leadership as a natural continuation of Lenin’s, declaring “Comrade Lenin enjoined us to guard the unity of our party” (Stalin). This supposed unity of Leftist thought has never been realized, and is just an excuse for Stalin to purge dissenters. That process is incompatible with the goal of breaking down unjust power relations, which is the goal of Communism. We must stay true to Marx’s ideals, which demand an opening up and freeing of discourse, necessarily including diverse perspectives. 

      It is crucial to highlight the massive diversity of leftist thought. Even Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez aren’t real socialists. All of their proposals are just reconfigurations of Capitalist institutions that leave their basic supporting structures unaltered. Rather, they are Social Democrats. This massive variation in belief bears out the fact that not all Marxists or Leftists believe in expanding state power or curtailing personal freedoms. That idea has been perpetuated by people who are threatened by the revolution, and those who would seek to control it for their personal gain.


Speeches Cited

Stalin, Joseph. “On The Death of Comrade Lenin.” Second All-Union Congress of the Soviet, 11/26/1924. Marxists Internet Archive 2004, from J. V. Stalin, Selected Works, The “8 Nëntori” Publishing House, Albania, 1979. Accessed 12/1/2020

Marx, Karl. “The German Ideology” The Portable Karl Marx, edited by Eugene Kamenka. Penguin Books, 1989.

Lenin, Vladimir Illyich Ulyanov. “Speech Delivered at a Meeting of Soldiers of the Izmailovsky Regiment April 10 (23), 1917” Marxists Internet Archive 2005, from Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 24, pages 107-109. Accessed 12/1/2020

Note: the reason there are two different dates for the Lenin speech are because it was given before Russia switched from the Julian to Gregorian Calendars. When they did so they skipped a couple weeks  of the Julian calendar. The Julian date is in parenthesis and the Gregorian (one we use) appears first.