....Between late September 1922 and early March 1923, the final months of his active life, Vladimir Lenin led a political battle within the leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. At stake was nothing less than whether the party would continue advancing along the political course that had brought the Bolshevik-led workers and peasants of the former tsarist empire to power some five years earlier. That victory had opened the door to the first socialist revolution and ushered in a new historical era with prospects for proletarian-led popular revolution not only in Europe but across Asia and beyond.
There was nothing hypothetical about this battle. Lenin fought to win the party's leadership to implement concrete proposals on matters affecting the lives of tens of millions: control over revenues from the Soviet republic's import and export trade; structural changes to facilitate improving the class composition of state and party bodies; a transformation of the organization of agricultural production and exchange; special steps to guarantee equality of rights and self-determination for nations and nationalities formerly oppressed by the tsarist empire; increased political priority and funding of literacy programs and schools as part of broader efforts to open education and culture to the toilers and to party cadres working in government bodies; civil treatment of party members and coworkers as an unqualified precondition for leadership.
The battle was not primarily over economic policy or methods of administration. It was a political fight over the class trajectory of the Soviet republic and Communist Party.
Would the proletariat continue to exercise and strengthen its leadership of state institutions, the party, and economic production and planning? Or would this proletarianization be engulfed and overwhelmed by the growth of petty-bourgeois and newly emerging bourgeois layers, especially in trade and farming, and by their representatives—whether unwitting or not—throughout the state and party apparatus?
How could the worker-peasant alliance on which both the proletarian dictatorship and Communist Party rested—and, in fact, the newly formed Communist International, as well—be reinforced?1 How could that alliance be defended in face of social and economic devastation brought on by civil war and imperialist military intervention? In face of unrelenting pressures resulting from the higher productivity of labor in the imperialist countries as reflected through the world capitalist market? How could working-class leadership of that alliance be fortified, and the peasantry's confidence in the proletariat and support for its course toward socialism be broadened and built on?
What steps had to be taken by the working-class vanguard of the revolution and their party to continue marching forward along the road of proletarian internationalism? Why were the attitudes and conduct of the majority Russian cadres and leaders of the Soviet republic toward oppressed nations and nationalities within the old tsarist empire the acid test of the Communist Party's course toward workers and peasants the world over? Could communists look for new worker and peasant revolutions not only in Europe but elsewhere, following the defeat of the 1918-20 revolutionary wave?....
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