Getting them YOUNG to warp their minds
|Lenin’s Left Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder gives us an introduction to understanding how Marxist strategy and tactics are formulated and tested. For Lenin it was not enough to just want and work towards socialism, but how you actually planned to get there mattered as well.Left Wing Communism is the first work that actually mentions strategy and tactics and what they mean for the Communist movement. Before this, Marx, Engels and other revolutionaries had not set out to discuss the formulation of strategy and tactics in both the movements for immediate reforms that were taking place and the long-term struggle for socialism. It was during Lenin’s time, a period that saw communist and revolutionary parties and organizations coming to life in every country, that there was a need for a larger discussion on strategy and tactics.
From Lenin’s standpoint, there were two different troubling trends when it came to the formulation of strategy and tactics. There was an opportunist trend that wanted to reform not abolish capitalism that was embodied in many of the Socialist and Labor Parties of Lenin’s time. The other trend was “ultra-leftism” which advocated against compromises with the capitalist class, against working within reactionary trade unions and generally boycotted elections. Having dealt with the opportunist trend for many years, Lenin set out to tackle the problem of “ultra-leftism”.
In Left Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder, Lenin wanted to make a distinction between the political “infantilism” of new organizations and those that were hardened ultra-leftists. New revolutionary groups had formed after the Russian Revolution of 1917, with many of them coming from the left-wing of other parties. Lenin saw that these groups were making tactical and strategic errors because of their general lack of experience. Lenin wanted to help these new groups by giving them criticism and advice so that they could avoid repeating past mistakes. Lenin, on the other hand, had no patience for hardened ultra-leftists that were disruptive and acted as obstructionists in the movement towards socialism.
We have to recognize and put into context the language that Lenin uses in the text. During Lenin’s time period, there was still armed struggle being waged in different countries and the Soviet Union was just coming out of a civil war. The language and phrases that Lenin uses such as “iron discipline” of the Party and the “ruthless” struggle against the capitalist class reflects the climate of intense and deadly struggle that was taking place. Today, we would not use this type of language when discussing the work of the Party and the types of struggles that we are involved in.
In the following years after the publication of this text, there was much discussion in the world communist movement about strategy and tactics. The relationship between a given strategy and tactics that were used was explored more in-depth. Lenin did not actually explain how or even if strategy and tactics were related or what they are. Today we understand that to develop a strategic goal, you have to look at the stage of social development and the class and social forces that exist. From there, you have to determine what would be the first qualitative change that you would need to make to move forward. With this in mind, then you need to think of what tactics will bring together the necessary social forces to make this change happen.
While you can have multiple tactics, you can only have one strategy. The strategy stays the same over a long period time, while your tactics must be flexible and change to meet new developments and keep pace with the direction of events on the ground. Making all of these connections is more of an art than a science and the world communist movement continues to debate, discuss and develop the ideas started within Lenin’s work.
The study guide contains questions based on different sections of the book; an index and a facilitator’s guide that will help you lead the discussion. Ideally your club or discussion group would set aside a hour or two to give time for a full discussion on each of the sections. You can order copies of the book from International Publishers for $4.00. You can find their online catalog at .
At the end of the study guide you will find an evaluation sheet that you can fill out after you complete the study guide. Your comments, feedback and suggestions are very important and will help us to ensure that the study guide is a useful tool. You can mail your feedback and suggestions to YCLUSA 235 W. 23rd Street NY, NY 10011.
Have fun reading,
Educational and Literature Committee of the Young Communist League, USA