M. N. Roy Jawaharlal Nehru

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great political thinkers

  1. become its guiding force, the Party had to be armed with advanced revolutionary theory, the theory of Marxism. It bad to carry that theory into the working-class movement, thus making that movement socialist-conscious. "Without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement," was how Lenin assessed the role of revo­lutionary theory.

  2. Early in 1916, Lenin began working on a book about imperial­ism for Parus, a newly established legal publishing House in Petro-grad. An analysis of the economic and political essence of imperial­ism was required to enable the working class to further its revolution. Without this analysis, Lenin believed, it was impossible to provide the revolutionary movement with correct leadership.

  3. Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism

  4. Lenin completed his Imperialism, the Highest State of Capitalism in the summer of 1916, which is regarded by the Marxists as an out­standing contribution to the treasure-store of creative Marxism. In it he makes a comprehensive investigation of imperialism. He traces the development of world capitalism over the course of half a century after the publication of Marx's Capital. Basing himself on the laws of the emergence, development and decline of capitalism, discovered by Marx and Engels, he was the first to give a profound scientific analysis of the economic and political substance of imperialism as a special, the highest, and at the same time, last stage of capitalism, showing that under imperialism all the contradictions of capitalist society inevitably become aggravated. He characterizes imperialism as monopoly imperialism and at the same time, as parasitical, decay­ing and dying capitalism, disclosing the conditions that will bring on its end and demonstrating that capitalism will inevitably and neces­sarily be superseded by socialism.

  5. Lenin gives the following definition of the substance of imperial­ism: "Imperialism is capitalism at that stage of development at which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital is established ; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance ; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun ; in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed."*

  6. Monopoly rule, Lenin explained, signifies a sharp intensification of the exploitation of the working class and an exacerbation of the contradiction between labour and capital, of the contradictions lead­ing to the proletarian revolution. It worsens the condition of the working class and leads to the ruin of the bulk of the peasants and the urban petite bourgeoisie, to increased dissatisfaction among them. This creates the objective conditions for cementing the alliance bet-

  7. 6 Lenin, V. I. : Collected Works, Vol. 22, pp. 266-67.

  1. V. I. LBNIN

  2. 433

  1. ween the working class and the labouring peasants. That alliance is the principal force in the struggle against the imperialist bourgeoisie.

  2. Furthermore, subjection of all the nations to a handful of 'Great Powers', the sharp intensification of colonial oppression, the brutal exploitation of the hundreds of millions in the colonial and dependent countries must inevitably result in the growth of the national libera­tion movements and make for a united front of struggle of the prole­tariat of the capitalist countries and the colonial and dependent peoples against imperialism. Lenin's scientific analysis of the contra­dictions of capitalism at its last stage brought him round to the con­clusion that imperialism is the eve of the socialist revolution. The revolutionary transition to socialism had now become a vital necessity.

  3. In the Party Programme, drawn up in the period of the Second R.S.DX.P. Congress, Lenin had formulated a damning indictment of Russian capitalism. During the First World War he formulated, with supreme scientific precision and revolutionary passion, an indictment of world imperialism, which was dragging mankind into the abyss of new devastating wars and economic disaster.

  4. Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism represents a new Leninist stage of the development of Marxian economic theory.

  5. On the basis of his (own) study of imperialism Lenin further developed the Marxist theory of socialist revolution, its content, its motive forces and conditions and forms of development, in the new epoch. He proved that the war had accelerated the growth of the requisites for revolution and that as a whole the world capitalist system had matured for the transition to socialism.

  6. In Grundsatze des Kommunismus (Principles of Communism) (1847), Engels had replied in the negative to the question of whether it was possible to accomplish a socialist revolution in one country. Proceed­ing from the fact that the world market and large-scale industry had levelled "social development in all civilized countries," Engels drew a conclusion that Marx also agreed with, namely, ". . . .the communist revolution. . . .will take place simultaneously in all civilized countries, i.e., at least, in England, the United States, France and Germany." Lenin's remarkable service to communism was that in creatively deve­loping the teachings of Marx and Engels in the new historical condi­tions, in the epoch of imperialism, he came to the key conclusion that socialism can be victorious first in one country that does not necessa­rily have to be at a high level of economic development. He dis­covered this conclusion on the basis of the law, discovered by himself, of the uneven economic and political development of capitalism in the imperialist era ; this development inevitably leads to the uneven maturing of the socialist revolution in different countries. Lenin first formulated this conclusion in August 1915 in the article "On the Slogan for a United States of Europe".

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  1. Lenin's Theory of the Revolutionary Situation

  2. In the years of the imperialist war Lenin continued to develop his theory af the revolutionary situation, which proved to be of immense significance for the practical activities of the Marxist parties. Popu­lar revolutions do not take place at the whim of one or another party. The masses rise to struggle under the influence of factors deeply rooted in their objective conditions of life. Capitalism itself creates the conditions that make mass revolutionary action inevitable; capitalist development impels the masses to struggle. Lenin showed that revolution cannot be 'made to order', that it grows out of objectively maturing crisis. And these crises he called revolutionary situations.

  3. Lenin always regarded socialist revolution in any country as a component of the world socialist revolution. He, therefore, held that it was the sacred duty of all Marxist parties and groups to strengthen the unity and solidarity of the world revolutionary socialist movement and to be guided always and everywhere by the great prin­ciple of proletarian internationalism.

  4. Such are the cardinal tenets of Lenin's theory of socialist revo­lution. On the basis of this theory and tactics the Bolsheviks accom­plished the October Revolution in Russia and rallied the Left forces in the West. But the experience shows that Lenin's theory and expectation that proletarian revolution will grow successfully in other countries also and become general in due course of time have proved to be incorrect. The fact that the socialist revolution was brought about in a country (Russia) which was not so industrially developed (at the time of socialist revolution) as several other countries of the West also falsifies the basic Marxian thesis that only a predominantly industrial country, where capitalism has reached its highest stage of growth, is best suited to a socialist revolution.

  5. Estimate of Lenin

  6. Lenin's career shows that he was not much concerned with the precision of his ideas or theories and that he also did not care much to follow exactly what Marx and Engels had stated. His main objec­tive was to guide the Bolshevik Revolution with firmness and insight, and his enormous power lay in his capacity of organizing a revolu­tionary party in Russia. He is thus acclaimed universally as a great revolutionary and builder of a first Socialist State in the world. His revolutionary genius tore aside the veil of time and paved the way for socialist revolutions in other countries.

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  2. LEO TOLSTOY (I 828- 1910)

  3. Inner Turmoil and Search for the Purpose of Life

  4. Count Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy was bom at his ancestral home of Yasnaya Polyana, Russia, on September 9, 1828. He came of an ancient and noble family. He had everything with him that one could suppose necessary for a happy life. He was healthy, indeed stronger physically than any of his contemporaries ; he was intellec­tually vigorous, artistically fresh. As the master of a great estate he had no material worries ; he enjoyed reputation in the first place as a descendant of one of the most aristocratic noble families ; in the second, and still more, as the greatest writer in the Russian tongue, and a novelist famous throughout the globe. His family life was perfectly harmonious ; he had wife and children, and no outward cause is to be traced for the slightest discontentment with life.

  5. Tolstoy, an earth-bound man of this world, who had seen and felt the sensuous side of our earth as no one else had, had no inclina­tion towards metaphysics and speculative thinking. But he received a blow—a blow from somewhere out in the dark. This inward shock, which Tolstoy received when he was about fifty, h?d no name, and really no visible cause. But he felt that somewhat fearful had happened to him. "Life came to a standstill, and turned sinister." He felt all his limbs, as it were, asking himself what had happened— why this sudden melancholy, these spells of terror, why nothing pleased or moved him any more. He felt only that work revolted him, that his wife became astranger, his children left him indifferent. A digust of life, taedium vitae, possessed him, and he locked his sporting gun away lest in despair he should turn it upon himself. "At that time he first clearly realized (he describes his condition in a self-portrait, the Levine of Anna Karenina) that every living being, and he too, had nothing to look for /ard to but suffering, death and eternal decay; and so he had decided that he could not go on living like this; either he must find an explanation of life, or he would shoot himself."

  6. "To give a name to this inner turmoil which shaped Tolstoy into a speculator, a thinker, a life-teacher, would be senseless. Prob­ably it was a mere climacteric condition, fear of old age, fear of death, a neurasthenic depression which turned into a passing spiritual para­lysis. But it is in the nature of intellectual man, and above all of the artist that he observes and tries to overcome his inward crisis. At first, only a nameless unrest began to possess Tolstoy. He wanted to

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  1. know what had happened to him, and why life, which until then had seemed so sensible, so rich, so luxuriant, so varied, all at once became shallow and meaningless. And like his Ivan Ilyitch in the magnificent story when he feels death's talons for the first time and asks himself in alarm, "Perhaps I have not lived as I should have lived ?" Tolstoy began day by day to examine himself on his life and on the meaning of life. He was a truth-seeker and philosopher not from native pleasure in speculation or from intellectual curiosity, but for self-preservation, from despair. His thinking, like Pascal's, is philosophy on the brink or out of the abyss, the gouffre ; he searched life in fear of death, of nothingness. There is a strange document of Tolstoy's from that period, a sheet of paper on which he listed the six "un­known questions" which he had to answer :

  1. Why am I living ?

  2. What is the cause for my existence and that of everyone else ?

  3. What purpose has my existence or any other ?

  4. What does the division which I feel within me into good and evil signify, and for what purpose is it there ?

  5. How must I live ?

  6. What is death—how can I save myself ?

  1. The answering of these questions was, more than his literary work, the meaning and purpose of Tolstoy's life for the next thirty years.

  2. Tolstoy, with a view to understanding the meaning of life, began to study philosophic books of every tendency, Schopenhauer and Plato, Kant and Pascal. But neither the philosophers nor the sciences gave him his answer. Tolstoy was displeased to find that the opinions of these wise men were only "clear and exact where they do not deal with the direct question of life," but that they wholly evaded answering when asked for decisive advice and help ; and that none of them could explain the only thing he himself thought important: "What temporal, causal and spatial meaning has my life ?"

  3. And so he shifted from philosophy to religion. Knowledge had denied itself to him, so he sought a faith, and prayed : "Give me a faith, O Lord, and let me help others to find it." He writes in his book My Confession :

  4. "When I had come to this conclusion, I understood that it was useless to seek an answer to my question from knowledge founded on reason, and that the answer given by this form of knowledge is only an indication that no answer can be obtained till the question is put differently—till the question be made to include the relation between the finite and the infinite. I also understand that, however unreasonable and monstrous the ans­wers given by faith, they have the advantage of bringing into


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  1. every question the relation of the finite to the infinite, without which there can be no answer."1

  2. Seeker after Truth

  3. Tolstoy, in this distracted stage, was not yet concerned for any universal doctrine ; he was no initiator, no spiritual revolutionary. He wanted only to find a path and a goal for himself, ...the bemused individual, Leo Tolstoy, to reconquer his peace of soul.. In his own words he wanted only to 'save' himself from his own! nihilism, to find a sense for the senselessness of experience. He did|not yet even dream of proclaiming a new faith, and had no desire to depart from traditional, orthodox Christianity. He made every effort to be wholly devout; he "observed all the commandments and regulations of the Church, fasted, made pilgrimages to monasteries, kneeled before ikons, debated with bishops and priests and sectarians ; and above all he studied the Gospels."

  4. And now the same thing happened that always happens to rest­less seekers after truth. He found that the laws and commandments of the Gospels were neglected, and that what the Russian Orthodox Church preached as Christ's teaching was by no means original, the 'true' teaching of Christ. Here he discovered his first task : to ex­plain the real sense of the Gospel, and to teach this Christianity to everyone "as a new concept of life, not as a mystical doctrine." The seeker had become a confessor, the confessor a prophet; and from prophet to zealot would be no great step. A personal uespair begat to take shape as an authoritarian doctrine, a reformation of all inte" lectual and moral thinking, and a new sociology besides.

    1. 1 Tolstoy, Leo : My Confession (1882).

    Tolstoy, after his books, My Confession and My Faith, were for­bidden by the .censors and the Holy Synod respectively, began to undermine all the foundations of Church, State and temporal order. Likejrthe Waldensians, the Albigensians, the Anabaptists, the peasant preachers of the revolutions, like everyone who tried to turn Chris­tianity back to primitive Christianity and to live by word and letter of the Bible alone, Tolstoy was now unalterably on the way to be­coming the most determined enemy of the state, the most passionate anarchist and anticollectivist of modern times. His strength, his determination, his endurance and his unruly courage combined to carry him farther on the one hand than the most zealous reformers, like Luther and Calvin, and on the other hand, in socio­logical matters, farther than the most daring of anarchists, Stirner and his school. Before long modern civilization, contemporary society of the nineteenth century with all its justice and injustice, knew no more desperate and dangerous adversary than the greatest literary artist of its time, No one was a more effectively destructive critic of society than the man who had been the greatest artistic builder of his epoch.


  6. Tolstoy, at first thought that he was attempting only to put his own private life in order, to give rest to his soul by suiting his per­sonal attitude as closely as possible to the commands of the Gospel. He intended nothing beyond living at peace with God and at peace with himself. But all unbeknownst the original, "what was wrong in my life ?" grew to the general one, "what is wrong in all our lives ?" and thus became the criticism of the age. He began to look around and discovered—which was not hard to do, parti­cularly in the Russia of those days—the inequality or social con­ditions, the contrast between rich and poor, luxury and squalor ; beyond his own private mistakes he saw the general injustice of his upper-class fellows, and took it for his chief duty to repair this in­justice with all his strength. A chance stay in Moscow in 1881 brought him close to the social question for the first time. In his book What Are We To Do ? he paints in staggering form this first encounter with the mass misery of a great city. Of course his clear eye had seen poverty in his travels and walking trips a thousand times before, but this had been merely the individual poverty of villages and countryside, not the concentrated proletarian poverty of the industrial cities, poverty as a product of the age, the machined product of a machine civilization. Putting into practice his attitude towards the Bible, Tolstoy tried to mitigate the misery at first by gifts and contributions, by organizing philanthropy ; but he soon saw the uselessness of every individual action, and "that money alone could do no good here in changing these people's tragic existences." A real change can be achieved only by a total reconstruction of the present social system. Thus he w.ites the fiery words of warning upon the wall of the times : "Between us, the rich and the poor, there is always a wall of false education, and before we can help the poor we must tear down this wall. I was driven to the conclusion that our wealth is the real cause of the common people's misery." Something is wrocg with the present social structure : that was clear to him .1 the innermost recesses of his soul, and from that day onward Tolstoy had one single purpose—to instruct people, to warn them, to educate them into taking pains of their own free will to make good the fact that men are stratified into such wholly separate classes.

  7. Condemnation of Property

  8. Gradually Tolstoy became firm in his belief that property is the root cause of inequality and suffering in society. Hence he started his attack on property a hundred times more bitterly than Karl Marx and Proudton. "Today possessions are the root of all evil. They cause the suffering of those who possess and of those who do not possess. And the danger of collision is unavoidable between those who have too much and those who live in poverty." All evil begins with property, and so long as the state still recognizes the principle of property, according to Tolstoy, it is being both unchristian and un­social, and becomes one of, in fact the chief of, the guilty parties.

  1. leo tolstoy

  2. 439

  1. "States and governments intrigue and go to war for property, now for the banks of the Rhine, the lands of Africa, now for China and the Balkans ; bankers, traders, manufacturers and land-owners work, plant and torment themselves and others, only for property. Officials fight, cheat, oppress and suffer, all for the sake of property alone. Our courts, our police defend property. Our penal colonies and prisons, all the horrors of our so-called suppression of crime exist entirely to protect property."

  2. Against the State and Its Laws

  3. A man is trained first of all in habits of obedience to state laws. At the present time every act of our lives is under the supervision of the state, and in accordance with its dictates a man marries and is divorced, rears his children, and in some countries accepts the religion it prescribes. What is this law, then, that determines the life of mankind ? Do men believe in it ? Do they consider it true ? Tols toy's answer was : "Not at all." In most cases they recognize its injustice, they despise it, and yet they obey it. It was fit, Tolstoy writes, that "the ancients should obey their law." It was chiefly religious, and they sincerely believed it to be the only true law, to which all men owed obedience. Is that the case with us ? We can­not refuse to acknowledge that the law of our state is not the eternal law, but only one of the many laws of many states, all equally im­perfect, and frequently wholly false and unjust—a law that has been openly discussed in all its aspects by the public press."2 Men have long since realized that there is no sense in obeying a law whose honesty is more than doubtful, and therefore they must suffer when, though privately denying its prerogative, they still conform to it. When a man's whole life is held in bondage by laws, whose injustice, cruelty and artificiality he plainly discerns, and yet is compelled to obey these laws under penalty of punishment, he must suffer ; it can­not be otherwise.

  4. State Shields Injustice

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