The Vanguard Concept

“The Vanguard” = those layers of people in the working class who are either militant unionists, or are at least class conscious, or in some ways anti-capitalists or full on revolutionaries.

Thats all it means. So if you’re talking and debating the merits of “The Vanguard” you’re probably of it. So this includes (most) anarchists

So, we’re all invited to The Party? Great!

But the thing is, you’re leaving out the part where The Vanguard takes over state power:

What happens is that the Party, shall we say, absorbs the vanguard of the proletariat, and this vanguard exercises the dictatorship of the proletariat.

V. I. Lenin, The Trade Unions, The Present Situation, And Trotsky’s Mistakes, 1920

Lenin’s concept of The Vanguard was of rulers in waiting:

The art of politics (and the Communist’s correct understanding of his tasks) consists in correctly gauging the conditions and the moment when the vanguard of the proletariat can successfully assume power, when it is able—during and after the seizure of power—to win adequate support from sufficiently broad strata of the working class and of the non-proletarian working masses, and when it is able thereafter to maintain, consolidate and extend its rule by educating, training and attracting ever broader masses of the working people.

Left-Wing Communism: an Infantile Disorder, 1920

So, as workers with no wish to assume power over “the most backward strata and masses of the working class”, we anarchists can’t really count ourselves among the Leninist vanguard.

I mean honestly though, having read Lenin you must  realise that this is a bit of a stretch. What do you think Lenin would’ve made of an attempt to include anarchists in his definition of the proletarian vanguard? He’ll be spinning in his display case.

Lenin, 1917, “Workers’ Control”

Lenin writes: “Such measures as the nationalization of the land and of the banks and syndicates of capitalists, or at least the immediate establishment of the control of the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies over them (measures which do not in any way imply the ‘introduction of socialism’) must be absolutely insisted on and whenever possible introduced by revolutionary means”. Such measures were “entirely feasible economically” and without them it would be “impossible to heal the wounds of the war and prevent the impending collapse”.

To Lenin’s basic ideas of workers’ control as a “curb on the capitalists” and “a means of preventing collapse”, a third was soon to be added with recurs in much of Lenin’s writing of this period. It is the concept of workers’ control as a “prelude to nationalization”. For instance: “We must at once prepare the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies, the Soviet of Deputies of Bank Employees, etc., to proceed to the adoption of feasible and practicable measures for the merging of all the banks into one single national bank, to be followed by the establishment of the control of the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies over the banks and syndicates and then by their nationalization”.

Bolsheviks’ and Workers’ Control

“Workers’ power” cannot be identified or equated with the power of the Party – as it repeatedly was by the Bolsheviks. In the words of Rosa Luxemburg, workers’ power must be implemented

“by the class, not by a minority, managing things in the name of the class. It must emanate from the active involvement of the masses, remain under their direct influence, be submitted to control by the entire population, result from the increasing political awareness of the people”.

As for the concept of “taking power” it cannot mean a semi-military putsch, carried out by a minority, as it obviously does for so many who still seem to be living in the Petrograd of 1917. Nor can it only mean the defence – however necessary – of what the working class has won against attempts by the bourgeoisie to win it back. What “taking power” really implies is that the vast majority of the working class at last realizes its ability to manage both production and society – and organizes to this end.

Bolsheviks’ and Workers’ Control

An analysis of the Russian Revolution shows that in allowing a specific group, separate from the workers themselves, to take over the function of managing production, the working class loses all possibility of even controlling the means of producing wealth. The separation of productive labour from the means of production results in an exploiting society. Moreover, when institutions such as the Soviets could no longer be influenced by ordinary workers, the regime could no longer be called a soviet regime. By no stretch of the imagination could it still be taken to reflect the interests of the working class. The basic question: who manages production after the overthrow of the bourgeoisie? should therefore now become the centre of any serious discussion about socialism. Today the old equation (liquidation of the bourgeoisie = workers’ state) popularized by countless Leninists, Stalinists and Trotskyists is just not good enough.

Bolshevik’s and Workers’ Control

“This return to the historical roots of the controversy is not motivated by an addiction to archivism or by a partiality for the esoteric. The revolutionary movement in Britain – unlike that in several European countries – has never been much concerned with theory, preferring on the whole an empirical, “suck-it-and-see” kind of approach. This may at times have helped it avoid becoming bogged down in the swamps of metaphysical speculation but the overhead costs – in terms of clarity and consistency – have been heavy. Without a clear understanding of objectives and of the forces (including ideological forces) impeding advance – in short without a sense of history – the revolutionary struggle tends to become “all movement and no direction”. Without clear perspectives, revolutionaries tend to fall into traps – or be diverted into blind alleys – which, with a little knowledge of their own past, they could easily have avoided.”

Are you sure we’re talking about Syndicalism here?

By Steve Ongerth

“It seems to me, then, that the real transgression that the IWW committed, in the eyes of Lenin and his followers, is that it refused to align itself with Moscow. It wouldn’t have made any difference if the IWW had been syndicalist, communist, or Satanist (or all three), the results would probably have been the same. The IWW might have even been willing to affiliate (debatable as that decision might have been), had the demands of Comintern not stipulated that the IWW cease to function as it was intended, and while it’s true that there had hitherto been some debates and disagreements between anarchists and communists (most famously between Bakunin and Marx, though it should be noted that the political aspects of their quarrels have been somewhat overstated and their personal competutiveness with each other vastly understated as motivations for their animosity), the deep schism that exists between us really didn’t happen until the Spanish Civil War in 1936. Of course, it goes without saying that the ISO, today being Fourth Internationalists, has its own problems being aligned with Comintern (or what’s left of it!)”