Comparison Lenin and Marx

Published 22 Sep 2016

Comparison on Revolutionary Views – Lenin and Marx

Vladimir Lenin and Karl Marx: perhaps the two most important and influential persona in all of Russia’s history. Their entry into the annals of history came at a time when the Russian people were anticipating and clamoring for a change from the old tsarist way of governance. Their ideologies forever changed the thinking of the mass minimum-wage-earner, in Russia and perhaps in all of the mankind henceforth. In all of their literary works, two stand out as having the strongest socio-political impact amongst the populace: Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto and Vladimir Lenin’s What is to be Done?

In the year 1848, The Communist Manifesto was published. It was to serve as a platform for a working men’s association called the Communist League (Marx & Engels 3). This association, which was later to become popularly associated with Russia, actually had its origins in Germany. Two factors were considered in making and publishing this manifesto, namely: 1. Communism is already acknowledged by all European powers to be itself a power (Marx & Engels 8). 2. It is high time that Communists should openly, in the face of the whole world, publish its views, their aims, their tendencies, and meet this nursery tale of the specter of Communism with a manifesto of the party itself (Marx & Engels 8).

In Karl Marx’s viewpoint, the lower up to the lower bracket of the middle class continuously sink to being a proletariat, or minimum-wage-earner, in part due to their small and limited capital which isn’t sufficient enough to compete with the scale the capitalists run the modern industry (Marx & Engels 15). It was only inevitable that they increase in numbers.

The Communists’ relation to the proletarians are as follows: they do not wish to form a separate party opposed to the other existing working class parties (Marx & Engels 20), they have no interest separate and apart from those of the proletariat (Marx & Engels 20), they do not set up any sectarian principles of their own by which to shape and mold the proletarian movement (Marx & Engels 20). According to Marx, the ultimate aim of the Communists for the proletariat is to form them into a class; for them to overthrow the bourgeois or the ruling capitalist class; and eventually their conquest of political power (20). Communism also aims to abolish the right to own property. It is for the reason that most of it is the possession of the bourgeois class, thus being the epitome of exploitation of the many by the elite few (Marx & Engels 21).

Along with the centralization of all capital to the State, Marx intimates that these measures will have to be taken:

  1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
  2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
  3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
  4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
  5. Centralization of credit in the hands of the State, by means of a national bank and an exclusive monopoly.
  6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.
  7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State: the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
  8. Equal obligation of all to labor. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
  9. The combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries: gradual abolition of all distinction between town and country, by an equal distribution of the population over the country.
  10. Free education of all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labor in its present form. The combination of education with industrial production. (28)

The Communists in all countries support every revolutionary movement fighting the existing social and political authority, and in all of these revolutionary movements, the main factor is always the property question (Marx & Engels 40). Marx goes on to say that the Communists openly declare their views and aims and that their goals can only be attained through the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions (40).

On the other hand, Vladimir Lenin’s What is to be Done? went into circulation in 1902, with Party objectives and organization as his focus. He argues that workers, because of the capitalistic environs of his work, are destined to accept Socialism but that does not naturally make them conscious Socialists (Lenin 1).

The Russian proletariat, according to Lenin, will have to undergo graver and more difficult trials compared with its counterpart in a constitutional country, and that Russia’s proletariat is confronted with the most revolutionary and immediate of all the immediate tasks: the destruction of the most powerful bulwarks in Europe and Asia, thus making Russia’s proletariat the vanguard of the international revolutionary proletariat (Lenin 15).

Lenin comments on producing literature to expose factory and occupational conditions. These are basically leaflets distributed among the proletariats to convey the whole truth about their miserable conditions, the unbearably hard labor, and their lack of human rights (Lenin 33). This exposure literature caused an upheaval among the workers, not only of a certain factory but also among the surrounding factories, since poverty and oppression were common among all the proletariats in various trades and locations (Lenin 33). However, Lenin also reiterates that revolution and political education must not be limited to exposure. It is not enough for the worker to realize that he is oppressed (33). Agitation or the use of physical or militant force must be accomplished in every act and instance of oppression (Lenin 34).

Only through organizing a comprehensive political exposure will the masses open its political consciousness for revolutionary activities (Lenin 34). For this reason, Lenin believes that activities of these kinds are one of the most important responsibilities of international social democracy (34).

Lenin declares that intellectuals or professional revolutionaries, irrespective of where they came from college, university, or the workforce, must always bear in mind that:

  1. No revolutionary movement can endure without a stable organization of leaders maintaining continuity.
  2. The broader the popular mass is drawn spontaneously into the struggle, which forms the basis of the movement and participates in it, the more urgent the need for such an organization, and the more solid this organization must be.
  3. Such an organization must consist chiefly of people professionally engaged in revolutionary activity.
  4. In an autocratic state, the more we confine the membership of such an organization to people who are professionally engaged in revolutionary activity and who have been professionally trained in the art of combating the political police, the more difficult will it be to unearth the organization; and
  5. The greater will be the number of people from the working class and from the other social classes who will be able to join the movement and perform active work in it. (79)

From all that had been said, the reader will realize that our tactics-as-plan had been to lay effective siege to the enemy fortress. Simply put, it is directing all efforts toward organizing, gathering, and mobilizing a permanent army (Lenin 111).

Lenin stressed his utmost support in a plan for an organization centered on an all-Russia political newspaper (113). He believed that through this, the flexibility required will be ensured for a militant, Social-economic organization. Flexibility in terms of quickly adjusting to the most varied conditions of the struggle, and to steer clear of an open battle with a larger and overpowering enemy, and to benefit from an enemy’s slackness and attack when they least expect it (Lenin113). He reminds the Russians to be always on the guard in every situation because most often than not the transition between a period of calm and a period of chaos is utterly impossible to foresee (Lenin 113).

The proposal for an all-Russia political newspaper, which Lenin strappingly pursues, will be, for the proletarians and intellectuals alike, the best preparation for a revolution without the proletarians losing sight of their present existence (114).

Conclusion: From the second half of the nineteenth century up to the early decades of the twentieth century, when the Russian public was clamoring for a change of leadership from their Tsarist oppressors, two individuals showed the entire country how it is to be done, and paved the way for that change.

Karl Marx’s Manifesto served as the platform of The Communist League. It came into existence due perhaps to Marx’s belief that Communism was already considered a power and it was high time for them to declare openly to the whole world the manifesto of the Party (Marx & Engels 8). Vladimir Lenin’s What is to be Done? however, was concerned mainly with the Party’s objectives and focus. The Russian proletariat, in his view, must undergo difficult trials for them to achieve their destiny as the vanguard of the international revolutionary proletariat (Lenin 15).

Marx’s ideologies in Manifesto was not very much interested in setting up principles or forming a separate Party for the proletariat, rather, his aims are to help systematize the proletariats for them to form a class, with aims of overthrowing the capitalist bourgeois and eventually the conquest of political power (20). Lenin, on the other hand, seemed more subversive. His goals, expressed in What is to be Done? concerned itself with literature for the proletariat, use of agitation, militant force, comprehensive political exposure, professional revolutionaries, and an all-Russia political newspaper in preparation for a revolution with aims of overthrowing the tsar.

Hence, we can safely state that Karl Marx was more concerned with his party The Communist League, the advancement of the proletariat as a class, and the guidelines in which Communism will eventually govern. Lenin, on the other hand, was more into the progression of the planned rebellion, the steps in preparing the proletariats for their role in the coming revolution, and their eventual governance.

Works Cited

  • Marx, Karl, and Frederick Engels, The Communist Manifesto. CA: 2006. 21 March 2009
  • Lenin, Vladimir, What is to be Done?, Marxist Internet Archive. 21 March 2009
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