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Against Substitutionism

Against Substitutionism

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Published by Mazdoor Mukti
The history of success and failure of the revolutions in the 20th century reaffirmed and reasserted the great axiom: workers emancipation is the act of the workers themselves. A Communist Party, whatsoever wise and correct it might be, can neither introduce communism from above through decrees and sermons, nor liberate the workers.
The following article examines the theory and practice of substitutionism, where the Communist Party substitutes the working class and the Party dictatorship substitutes the proletarian dictatorship.
The article also analyses the causes of the perpetuation of this theory among a large section of the communists in spite of its utter failure.
This critical assessment of the theory of substitutionism tries to locate the role of theory, organisation and individual in a revolutionary process and revolution on its legitimate historical perspective.
The history of success and failure of the revolutions in the 20th century reaffirmed and reasserted the great axiom: workers emancipation is the act of the workers themselves. A Communist Party, whatsoever wise and correct it might be, can neither introduce communism from above through decrees and sermons, nor liberate the workers.
The following article examines the theory and practice of substitutionism, where the Communist Party substitutes the working class and the Party dictatorship substitutes the proletarian dictatorship.
The article also analyses the causes of the perpetuation of this theory among a large section of the communists in spite of its utter failure.
This critical assessment of the theory of substitutionism tries to locate the role of theory, organisation and individual in a revolutionary process and revolution on its legitimate historical perspective.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Mazdoor Mukti on Aug 10, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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07/04/2012

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AGAINSTAGAINSTAGAINSTAGAINSTSUBSTITUTIONISMSUBSTITUTIONISMSUBSTITUTIONISMSUBSTITUTIONISM
 A journey from A journey from A journey from A journey from
 
'what Is To Be Done?' to'what Is To Be Done?' to'what Is To Be Done?' to'what Is To Be Done?' toWhat ought not be doneWhat ought not be doneWhat ought not be doneWhat ought not be doneGAUTAM SENGAUTAM SENGAUTAM SENGAUTAM SEN
Published by
SEARCH 
in January, 2000
 
 
Note to the Readers
Readers are requested to treat this study as essentially an 'interaction' version. This plea of the authorstems not from any lack of confidence in his propositions, but from his wish to invite activeintervention and critical comments from the advanced section of workers and interested intellectualswithin the broad socialist camp.This presentation is the consequence of two decades of study on the role of the working class andclass-party relationship and the development and failure of the socialist revolution particularly in thelight of the Russian and Chinese experiences.Although the author bears full responsibility of all the opinions advanced in this study, he isindebted to all his fellow mates who had contributed to developing his vision on the subject throughsupporting as well as opposing the initial proposition.Hope to publish the final version with all your valuable comments taken into consideration.Calcutta30 January 2000
 
 
2
Though this study begins with a critical assessment of 
What is to be done?,
it is neither a comprehensivestudy of 
What is to be done?,
nor an attempt to evaluate Lenin’s conception on party as a whole and should,in no way, be treated as such. The scope of the present study is very limited and well-defined. This is onlyan humble effort to re-evaluate the party-class and theory-revolution relationship as enunciated in
What isto be done?
through the classical Marxist conception of the self-emancipation of the working class.What and how much is the relevance of re-evaluation of a book written about a century ago, that too inthe background of specific Russian conditions? While searching an answer to the pertinent question one hasto first realise the following facts: one, Lenin himself had presented an opposing view of 
What is to bedone?
several times and drawn attention to its one-sidedness; two, the classical Marxist teachings hadcategorically rejected the substitutionist conception presented in
What is to be done?;
and last but not theleast, history has vindicated time and again, before and after writing of the aforesaid famous book, just theopposite lessons. Yet, the dominant communist current, known to be Marxists, not only in this country, butthroughout the world, have inherited those lessons as the last word regarding the theory-revolution and theparty-class relationships. Not only that, this book has been treated as the Bible and any attempt to re-examine the content of the book has been outright rejected with contempt.But in the meantime, the substitutionist current found its own base through the so-called success of socialism, in one after another country. The Communist Party power had substituted the working classpower in practice and the lessons of substitutionism had been reinforced repeatedly. Socialism wasestablished through ‘decrees’ and ‘sermons’ from above. And
What is to be done?
found its newerrelevance, to some as a strong positive weapon to fulfill their cause; and to some as a lesson :
What oughtnot to be done.
 I hope, the following re-appraisal of 
What is to be done?
will establish the relevance more relevantly.Let us begin from the beginning.
A brief re-visit
The present writer is aware of the historical perspective of the emergence of 
What is to be done?,
YoungLenin had been engaged on the problem of organisation facing Russian Social Democracy and his thoughton this question culminated in the writing of 
What is to be done?
in 1902. According to Lenin, ‘‘its maintheme was .........‘the three questions...’ — the character and main content of our political agitation; ourorganisational tasks; and the plan for building .simultaneously, and from various sides, a militant, all-Russian organisation.’’ We will analyse only a part of this book, which is relevant to our framework of study. One may raise one’s eyebrow and accuse me for choosing the subject deliberately. I shall not contesthim or her, rather simply state that it is the writer’s prerogative. We are also deliberately avoiding anydiscussion on the merits and demerits of Lenin’s opinion in
What is to be done?
on different other subjectshe had discussed.While commenting that ‘the working class exclusively by its own effort’, cannot attain socialistconsciousness, Lenin tried to explain the birth and emergence of theory of socialism:The theory of socialism, however, grew out of the philosophic, historical and economic theorieselaborated by educated representatives of the propertied classes, by intellectuals. By their socialstatus, the founders of modern scientific socialism Marx and Engels, themselves belonged to thebourgeois intelligentsia.In defence of his opinion, Lenin quoted a long passage from Kautsky, from which a portion is beingquoted below:But socialism and the class struggle arise side by side and not one out of another; each arises underdifferent conditions. Modern socialist consciousness can arise only on the basis of profoundscientific knowledge. Indeed, modern economic science is as much a condition for socialistproduction as, say, modern technology, and the proletariat can create neither the one nor the other,no matter how much it may desire to do so; both arises out of the modern social process. The vehicleof science is not the proletariat, but the
bourgeois intelligentsia
[K. K’s italics]; it was in the mindsof individual members of this stratum that modern socialism originated, and it was they who

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