marxism

Study Guide: LEFT-WING’ COMMUNISM


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Study Guide: LEFT-WING’ COMMUNISM (Class 1)

READING

A.  Lenin, Left- WingCommunism -An Infantile Disorder, Sections I-VI [32 pages]

SUPPLEMENTARY READING

B   Trotsky, “The School of Revolutionary Strategy,” The First Five Years of the Communist International, Vol. 2

C   Sectarianism, Centrism, and the Fourth International, Trotsky

DISCUSSION POINTS

1 What were the principal stages in the development of Bolshevism?

2  What is ultraleftism? Why does Lenin call it petty-bourgeois revolutionism? How do the methods of struggle favoured by ultraleftists differ from proletarian methods of struggle?

3  What aspects of the tactics used.in the making of the 1917 Russian Revolution have international applicability? What misconceptions about Bolshevik strategy and tactics encouraged ultraleftism in the Communist International?

4  Lenin writes that the broadest masses become convinced of the correctness of the program of the Marxist party “from their own experience.”  How does ultraleftism ignore this idea?

5 Why does Lenin favour taking advantage of every opportunity for legal work?

What is wrong with the ultraleft view that legal activity inevitably leads to reformism? 6 What are the flaws in the position that revolutionaries should only work in organisations that put forward a “revolutionary line”? What do Marxists counterpose to this ultraleft approach?

7    Why is it wrong to make support for socialist revolution a condition for membership in trade unions? How would such an approach affect the prospects for winning workers to revolutionary socialism?

LEFTWING COMMUNISM (class 2)

READING

A  Lenin, Left– Wing’ Communism: An Infantile Disorder, Sections VII-X and
Appendix [41 pages]

SUPPLEMENTARY READING

B   Communist International, “The Communist Parties and Parliamentarism“, in Left-Wing’ Communism: An Infantile Disorder

DISCUSSION POINTS

1  Why did Lenin consider participation by revolutionaries in bourgeois parliaments as “obligatory”? What were the ultraleftists’ arguments against this? Evaluate these arguments.

2  How did Lenin define electoral boycott? Under what circumstances is a boycott of bourgeois elections justified? Why is it wrong to counterpose the struggle for organs of workers’ power like soviets to participation by revolutionaries in bourgeois elections?

3    Why did the Bolsheviks not call for the overthrow of the bourgeois Provisional Government immediately after the February 1917 revolution? Why did they call for the creation of a bourgeois parliament (the Constituent Assembly)? Why didn’t this contradict the revolutionary stand of opposition to all forms of capitalist rule?

4    Why is it dangerous to draw immediate tactical conclusions from correct historical generalisations (e.g., “parliament is outmoded” or “capitalism is ripe for revolution”)? What did Lenin ascribe this mistake to?

5    Lenin writes that “to reject compromises ‘on principle’, to reject the permissibility of compromises in general, no matter of what kind, is childishness … ”  Why is this? Why is it necessary for revolutionaries to resort to compromises in their struggle against capitalism? What distinguishes such tactics from the illegitimate compromises of opportunists?

6  Why is it vital for a Marxist party to “search after forms of the transition or the approach to the proletarian revolution”?  Why can’t revolutionaries just “make the revolution” without worrying about “forms of the transition or the approach“? What do sectarians and ultralefts counterpose to this?

7 Did the tactics of the ultraleftists aid or retard a mass break with the opportunists in Lenin’s time? Do they aid or retard it today in Australia?

8    Why did Lenin argue for the British Communists to call for the election of a Labour government? What did Lenin mean when he said they should support the Labour Party “in the same way as the rope supports a hanged man”? Is this tactic valid in the US today, for example, in relation to the Democratic Party?

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