Karl Marx developed his theory of revolution by arguing against would-be progressives who looked to the capitalist state as a force for progress. Those arguments are today as relevant as ever. From the electoral politics of Bernie Sanders to the bankrupt worship of China or other self-described “socialist” countries, the idea that bureaucratic states should be at the centre of the strategy for human liberation remains in vogue.
On 25 October 1917, the Russian working class took power. At a meeting of the Congress of Soviets, the peak democratic body representing millions of workers, peasants and soldiers, Lenin declared: “We shall now proceed to construct the socialist order”. How? Lenin continued: “Creative activity at the grass roots is the most basic factor of the new public life ... Socialism cannot be decreed from above. Its spirit rejects the mechanical bureaucratic approach; living, creative socialism is the product of the masses themselves”.
Twenty-one-year-old Black Panther Party deputy chair Fred Hampton and his comrade Mark Clark were assassinated in a 1969 pre-dawn raid in Chicago. Arguably the most talented and politically astute of the Panther leaders, Hampton was renowned for inspiring activists of all colours. But he was betrayed by William O’Neal, his bodyguard and the Panthers’ head of security, who was an FBI informant.
The cliché of the authoritarian Lenin has become so common that the vast majority of writers repeat the mantra without feeling compelled to cite any evidence at all. Recycling a few hacked up, decontextualised quotes suffices. The mirror image of this caricature is the Stalinist conception of Lenin the mastermind, single-handedly pulling the strings of mass sentiment to orchestrate a revolution that would put him and the Bolsheviks at the helm of the Soviet state.
In the face of the worst refugee crisis since World War Two, Europeans are coming out in unprecedented displays of solidarity and empathy. Fortress Europe, a central political project of the European ruling class, is cracking under the pressure of refugee resistance and international solidarity.