In Defence Of The Vanguard Party

By Herr Komm

In this article I would like to address what in essence the vanguard party is, and why it seems to be the most rational revolutionary path to take, as opposed to the alternatives put forth by anarchists, revisionists, etc… who usually talk about the vanguard party as either oppressive, revisionist or why it supposedly cannot/has not lead to socialism. Hereby I’ll address the slanders, arguments etc… made by such groups and I will show why their arguments/claims fall under one (or multiple) of the following categories;

1. Revisionism
2. Fallacious argumentation
3. Over idealistic dogmatic ultra-leftism

Since this article is meant for left wing critics of the vanguard party, I will not be dealing with the issue of whether or not socialism is a more rational alternative to capitalism, and I will simply be arguing from the presupposition that it is the most rational socio-economic system. Since we have already established what presupposition has been brought into play, let’s continue to explain what the vanguard party is and why it’s the most rational path towards socialism.

The idea of the vanguard party can be summed up as follows;

a party of the popular working masses, that seeks to propagate Marxist ideas to attempt to create class-consciousness to make way for a socialist revolution and to set up the dictatorship of the proletariat

Now allow me to give several quotations by Lenin where he describes the theory of the vanguard party and it’s role as he has stated in his pamphlet What Is To Be Done?;

“At this point, we wish to state only that the role of vanguard fighter can be fulfilled only by a party that is guided by the most advanced theory.”

- Lenin, What Is To Be Done? – I Dogmatism And “Freedom of Criticism”

“We have said that our movement, much more extensive and deep than the movement of the seventies, must be inspired with the same devoted determination and energy that inspired the movement at that time. Indeed, no one, we think, has until now doubted that the strength of the present-day movement lies in the awakening of the masses (principally, the industrial proletariat) and that its weakness lies in the lack of consciousness and initiative among the revolutionary leaders.”

- Lenin, What Is To Be Done? – II The Spontaneity of the Masses and the Consciousness of the Social-Democrats

“We have said that there could not have been Social-Democratic consciousness among the workers. It would have to be brought to them from without. The history of all countries shows that the working class, exclusively by its own effort, is able to develop only trade union consciousness, i.e., the conviction that it is necessary to combine in unions, fight the employers, and strive to compel the government to pass necessary labour legislation, etc.[2] The theory of socialism, however, grew out of the philosophic, historical, and economic theories elaborated by educated representatives of the propertied classes, by intellectuals. By their social status the founders of modern scientific socialism, Marx and Engels, themselves belonged to the bourgeois intelligentsia. In the very same way, in Russia, the theoretical doctrine of Social-Democracy arose altogether independently of the spontaneous growth of the working-class movement; it arose as a natural and inevitable outcome of the development of thought among the revolutionary socialist intelligentsia. In the period under discussion, the middle nineties, this doctrine not only represented the completely formulated programme of the Emancipation of Labour group, but had already won over to its side the majority of the revolutionary youth in Russia.”

- Lenin, What Is To Be Done? – II The Spontaneity of the Masses and the Consciousness of the Social-Democrats

“There is much talk of spontaneity. But the spontaneous development of the working-class movement leads to its subordination to bourgeois ideology, to its development along the lines of the Credo programme; for the spontaneous working-class movement is trade-unionism, is
Nur-Gewerkschaftlerei (only trade union activism), and trade unionism means the ideological enslavement of the workers by the bourgeoisie. Hence, our task, the task of Social-Democracy, is to combat spontaneity, to divert the working-class movement from this spontaneous, trade-unionist striving to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie, and to bring it under the wing of revolutionary Social Democracy.”

- Lenin, What Is To Be Done? – II The Spontaneity of the Masses and the Consciousness of the Social-Democrats

Since we have now established what the vanguard party actually is and what it’s supposed to do, I’m now going to continue to show why anyone who calls himself a Marxist and opposes the vanguard party must be condemned as a revisionist, and hereby allow me to quote Marx and Engels;

“In what relation do the Communists stand to the proletarians as a whole?

The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to the other working-class parties.

They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole.

They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement.

The Communists are distinguished from the other working-class parties by this only: 1. In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality. 2. In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.

The Communists, therefore, are on the one hand, practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.

The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all other proletarian parties: formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat.”

- Marx & Engels, The Communist Manifesto – II Proletarians and Communists

In the last section of this quote by Marx & Engels, we can clearly see the formula of the vanguard party being formulated, without using those exact terms, and thus any condemnation of the vanguard party as not being Marxist is invalid and therefore revisionist (if they concider themselves to be Marxists).

In this next section I would like to address the main argument against the vanguard party (which comes in many different forms), in essence it goes something like this;

The use of the vanguard party did not historically lead to what it was supposed to lead to and therefore I don’t support it

Obviously some Marxists/Marxist organisations who hear this kind of argumentation, tend to be extremly skeptical of the central premise of this argument, however let us grant the accuser the assumption that this is exactly what happened (just for the sake of argument). What we are left
with now is the fact that the person who made the claim/argument has just commited the nirvana fallacy; where he exposes the (supposed) imperfections of the (historical) use of the vanguard party instead of arguing for a rational/viable alternative. This type of argumentation cannot and should not be taken seriously, as the anarchist, revisionist, or whatever his position may be has his own alternative methods that he is propogating, and by merely critiquing/slandering the theory of the vanguard party he is not showing in any way why his methodology/ideology is more rational than that of the vanguardist. If he cannot or does not want to defend his own position against the vanguard party, then the accuser has no rational case against the vanguard party regardless of it’s (supposed) imperfections.

Obviously this argument also denies the possibility of any theoretical/methodological expansions on the vanguard party one could make to improve the methodology of the vanguard, and also presupposes that the very first (few) attempts at the use of the vanguard should be succesful (in the sense of building and preserving a socialist society), as a dialectical materialist this presupposition seems highly questionable.

One also has to take into account the fact that the only successful revolutions (so far) were revolutions which were under the leadership of a vanguard party and that all the alternatives proposed either didn’t have any succesful revolutions, were not able to defend themselves from reactionaries or did not succesfully transform a capitalist state into a socialist one as those philosophies claimed they (supposedly) could. In addition to this the revolutions which keep popping up untill this very day are all under the leadership of a vanguard party (for example the maoists in Nepal, the naxalites in India, the FARC in Colombia and several others) whereas all the other left wing ideologies don’t have any active revolutions (anymore), which of itself is an argument quite in favour of the vanguard party.

In this last section I will actually go into detail of showing how the vanguard party has indeed lead to socialism, as in contrast to the claims made by people who slander the vanguard party (where we again have to concider the fact that all the alternatives have not lead to socialism (for a longer period)). However one has to keep in mind that I’m not arguing that these states/revolutions were by any means perfect, but merely the fact that they had (some form of) socialism. However some people will not be persuaded by what I have to say here, as they have subjected themselves to such a narrow/dogmatic definition of the word socialism that anything that slightly deviates from their ultra-specific definition of the word socialism must automaticly be rejected as capitalism, much like a dogmatic free market libertarian who has defined capitalism in such a narrow way that any system that has policies that do not reflect their ultra specific definition of the word capitalism must automaticly be rejected as socialism. If the ultra-leftist is not willing to accept the ultra specific
definition of the word capitalism by the free market libertarian, then he should be consistent and also not define socialism in an extremly narrow way, with that said I would like to continue to the actual argument.

However right before we can actually make the argument, we’re first going to have to define the word; socialism (to avoid the ability of people to be able to play semantics here). So I’ll be giving several different definitions from several different/independent dictionaries;

The definition of the word; socialism according to the miriam-webster dictionary:

noun \’so-sh?-?li-z?m\

1: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods

2a: a system of society or group living in which there is no private property
b : a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state

3: a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done”

The definition of the word; socialism according to


1: a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.

2: procedure or practice in accordance with this theory.

3: (in Marxist theory) the stage following capitalism in the transition of a society to communism, characterized by the imperfect implementation of collectivist principles.”

The definition of the word; socialism according to TheFreeDictionary:

“so·cial·ism (ssh-lzm)

1: Any of various theories or systems of social organization in which the means of producing and distributing goods is owned collectively or by a centralized government that often plans and controls the economy.

2: The stage in Marxist-Leninist theory intermediate between capitalism and communism, in which collective ownership of the economy under the dictatorship of the proletariat has not yet been successfully achieved.”

In addition to this I would like to include the criteria for socialism as given by Marx and Engels.

Allow me to quote Marx first;

“In fact, the realm of freedom does not commence until the point is passed where labor under the compulsion of necessity and of external utility is required. In the very nature of things it lies beyond the sphere of material production in the strict meaning of the term. Just as the savage must wrestle with nature, in order to satisfy his wants, in order to maintain his life and reproduce it, so civilized man has to do it, and he must do it in all forms of society and under all possible modes of production. With his development the realm of natural necessity expands, because his wants increase; but at the same time the forces of production increase, by which these wants are satisfied. The freedom in this field cannot consist of anything else but of the fact that socialized man, the associated producers, regulate their interchange with nature rationally, bring it under their common control, instead of being ruled by it as by some blind power; they accomplish their task with the least expenditure of energy and under conditions most adequate to their human nature and most worthy of it. But it always remains a realm of necessity. Beyond it begins that development of human power, which is its own end, the true realm of freedom, which, however, can flourish only upon that realm of necessity as its basis.”

- Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume III: The Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole – Part VII Revenues and their Sources

And subsequently, here is Engels talking about what socialism is according to him;

“From that time forward, Socialism was no longer an accidental discovery of this or that ingenious brain, but the necessary outcome of the struggle between two historically developed classes — the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Its task was no longer to manufacture a system of society as perfect as possible, but to examine the historico-economic succession of events from which these classes and their antagonism had of necessity sprung, and to discover in the economic conditions thus created the means of ending the conflict.”

- Friedrich Engels, Socialism: Utopian And Scientific – Part II: Dialectics

So let us proceed to argue on the basis of the (consistent) definition(s)/criteria we have so far established and that the vanguard party did indeed lead to socialism (as in the definition(s)/criteria given here). However since the usual claim by ultra-leftists and revisionists is that the vanguard party never lead to socialism, all we have to do to show that their position is incorrect is merely give one example where it did achieve socialism. In this case I will take the USSR as an example.

As to why the USSR was socialist (according to the Marxist and commonly accepted definitions of the word), I would like to direct you to the 1936 constitution of the USSR:

Some people may attempt to argue that the USSR didn’t follow it’s constitution, but in that case the burden of proof is on them to show that that was the case. In any event, here is a book that talks about how the USSR constitution was implemented:

The Stalin Constitution – Professor Trainin (It can be purchased here;

I would like to conclude this article by proclaiming that all the (main) arguments against the vanguard party have been refuted, and thus I’ve accomplished exactly what I’ve said I would seek to accomplish in the beginning of this article, which was showing that all arguments against the vanguard party follow under one (or multiple) of the following criteria:

1. Revisionism

2. Fallacious argumentation

3. Over idealistic dogmatic ultra-leftism

On top of that I gave a few arguments in favour of the vanguard party, such as the following arguments:

1. The historical (revolutionary) success of the vanguard party

2. The fact that the vanguard party lead to socialism (for a longer period) as opposed to the alternatives

3. That the vanguard party remains to be the primary revolutionary methodology untill this very day

4. That the alternatives have no contemporary/historical success anywhere

In short: I have reaffirmed the strength of revolutionary Marxism-Leninism and the weakness of any (leftist) position to the contrary.

* * *

Lenin, What Is To Be Done?

Marx & Engels, The Communist Manifesto

miriam-webster definition of socialism definition of socialism

TheFreeDictionary definition of socialism

Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume III: The Process of Capitalist Production as a Whole

Friedrich Engels, Socialism: Utopian And Scientific

1936 constitution of the USSR

Prof. I Trainin, The Stalin Constitution

A second post was made in companion to this one

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~ by Jason Unruhe on 2013 01 10.


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