Rome: The year 2024 will mark the centenary of the death of one of history’s greatest revolutionaries: Lenin. Communists do not honour such great figures through pilgrimages or ceremonies; we think the best way to honour a great revolutionary is to study and learn their ideas.
It is precisely for this reason that Sinistra Classe Rivoluzione, the Italian section of the International Marxist Tendency, organised a Marxist school on 16-17 December in Milan. The aim of the event was to provide intensive training in the theory, methods and tactics of Lenin, which, if we can master them, are the finest weapons in our arsenal. This is an urgent task, but it has been made complicated by the calumnies of bourgeois academics on the one hand, and the grotesque distortions of Stalinist historians on the other.
200 comrades from 24 cities across Italy participated in this event, including many young comrades who have become members of the IMT in recent months. They were joined online by a hundred comrades who followed the livestream.
It was two days of intense discussions, involving both plenary meetings and smaller workshops. Some of the talks are already available to watch in Italian via Youtube, while the others will be made available in the coming days.
The Saturday morning plenary, introduced by Alessandro Giardiello, was dedicated to providing a political biography of Lenin. Alessandro looked at the contributions Lenin made to the advancing of Marxist theory and the construction of the party, which he was able to masterfully guide through the changing political situation, from its beginnings in small circles to the conquest of the masses in the October Revolution.
Building the revolutionary party is the first task of every communist. The discussion on party building, introduced by Serena Capodicasa, explained the lessons of Lenin’s masterful work What is to be done?, written in the context of the ideological battle against economism.
In this text, Lenin explains the fundamental features of party building, such as the need to subordinate the economic struggle to the political struggle, in order to liberate workers not only from economic exploitation, but also from national and political exploitation. Serena also explained the need for a national and international organisation, a newspaper as a collective organiser, and the methods of democratic centralism (“maximum freedom of discussion, maximum unity of action”). However, it was also explained that Lenin always knew how to adapt organisational methods to the changing concrete conditions, in order to be able to connect the party with the masses, starting with the most advanced layers.
The panel on the Marxist view of the state, introduced by Franco Bavila, dealt with Lenin’s writings on the state. In his State and Revolution, Lenin draws on the ideas of Marx and Engels to explain the oppressive and class nature of the State, which is a means of the ruling class to maintain power through violence. Franco explained that in a healthy transition to a socialist society, workers are increasingly involved in the management of their lives, so that the state gradually withers away. Lenin’s vision of the state has nothing to do with the huge bureaucratic apparatus of the Stalinist USSR or the ruthless tool of a tyrant – this is precisely why this part of his thought is so often distorted.
The discussion introduced by Roberto Sarti was devoted to the national question, a central theme for Lenin in the context of tsarist Russia, the “prisonhouse of nations”. Lenin developed ideas that are fundamental today in order to take the correct position on recent developments in Palestine. Tsarist Russia in fact included a huge number of oppressed nationalities and peoples. Lenin, while standing firm on the principle of internationalism, always upheld the right of self-determination of oppressed peoples and the voluntary membership of the constituent nations of the USSR, as the unquestionable basis for achieving genuine unity of the workers of all countries.
The differences of opinion between Lenin and Trotsky have long been part of the Stalinist parties’ smear campaign against the latter, even after Trotsky’s death. In this discussion, introduced by Claudio Bellotti, it was explained that many of these differences were conjured out of thin air. While Lenin and Trotsky did at times disagree, this was not as the result of a fundamental opposition in ideas. Rather, they were sincere revolutionaries, who shared the common aim of leading the masses to victory, and many of their differences were later resolved.
In particular, this discussion explained that despite the divergence between Lenin’s initial slogan of “democratic dictatorship” and Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution, the two revolutionaries found themselves united on the necessity of the seizure of power by the Soviets in October 1917.
The last plenary discussion, introduced by Alessio Marconi on Sunday morning, looked at Lenin’s final fight against the bureaucracy represented by Stalin, before Lenin’s untimely death in 1924. The extremely harsh conditions in which Russia found itself after the October Revolution necessitated drastic measures, which were considered temporary, in an attempt to save the Revolution, but the lacking material conditions strengthened the enemies of communism, old and new.
Lenin’s final fight was against the bureaucracy and its champion: Stalin. To understand this, Sunday’s plenary focused on the politics of post-1917 Russia, and Lenin’s increasingly open struggle against Stalin and the party’s bureaucratic degeneration.
Concluding the event, Alessio Marconi emphasised that these two days of discussion were not an academic exercise or a formal tribute for the centenary, but a fundamental moment to sharpen our theoretical weapons and put them to use in the construction of the revolutionary party. This was the goal to which Lenin dedicated his entire life.
A revolutionary only dies when his ideas are forgotten, and his struggle is abandoned. We bear the banner of the great revolutionaries who came before us, and we will continue to fight to build a party that is not a lifeless machine. The revolutionary party must be an organic union of ideas, built on the basis of disciplined theoretical discussion. In order to overthrow the capitalist system, the party must be a living organism, a cohesive group of revolutionaries capable of this task.
With this seminar, the Italian section of the International Marxist Tendency marked a decisive step in our work. The high political level of the discussions, as well as the enthusiasm of the comrades, were a reflection of the excellent growth of our organisation in recent months since the launch of the “Are you a communist?” campaign earlier this year. This has allowed us to reach 500 comrades in Italy! The announcement of the reaching of this key milestone was met with loud applause and the singing of the Internationale by all the comrades.
This seminar was a step forward in preparing all comrades for the struggles that we are already experiencing. These struggles will only intensify in the coming period, and we are ready to meet them with militant determination. Onwards,
and that will not hesitate to present themselves, ever harder, and that will find us ever more ready and combative. Onwards, with “boldness, boldness, and still more boldness”!