A return to lenin - but without marx and engels?

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Recent sympathetic re-readings of Lenin run the risk of divorcing or unnecessarily distancing his project from that of Marx and Engels. One of the many claims in Lars Lih's Lenin Rediscovered: What Is to Be Done in Context is that "Marx as incarnated by European Social Democracy and the German SPD in particular," especially its theoretical leader Karl Kautsky, was the "inspiration" for the Bolshevik leader's politics. A close reading of Marx and Engels on the Russian question as well as Lenin up to and including What Is to Be Done disputes this argument, a variant on a long-held assumption, and the more general claim about the supposed distance between their projects. Marx and Engels accurately anticipated the Russian Revolution and provided the young Lenin with the necessary tools for applying their program to its reality. Rather than Kautsky and the German party, it was their perspective and program that he drew upon to understand and respond to developments, not only in Russia but in Germany as well. This enabled Lenin to appreciate not only the strengths of German Social Democracy - Lih's focus - but also its weaknesses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)452-473
Number of pages22
JournalScience and Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2009

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