Book Reviews

The Teachings of Karl Marx by V. Lenin – Book Review

A lot of times Vladimir Lenin has been excused by communists from the horrors of the Sovjet Union. Stalin is mostly seen as the big bad guy, which is understandable since Lenin was only alive in the beginning of the SU and Stalin quickly took over. It was during Stalin’s reign that most of the moral disasters happened in Russia. Yet Lenin shouldn’t be seen as the good predecessor of the evil Stalin. Lenin was a monster as well, initiating the gulags and is responsible for the deaths of nearly 8 million Ukrainians. So, one argument communists or Marxists use to distance themselves from these dictators is by simply declaring that they weren’t communists or Marxists. My goal is to see if this is the case.

            I can simply say that this book shows the understanding of Lenin has of Marx. In nearly 50 pages he can completely summarize his teachings and provide some commentary on his theories. For me this proves that Lenin is a Marxist. In my opinion, someone is a Marxist when he or she is clearly influenced by Marx and sees his theories as correct, regardless of how he puts it into practice. If the practical view is the only view would be considered then (1) there would be no Marxists, since Marx almost only made a theoretical model and (2) there could be no followers who only have conceived theories and not practical ideas. Plato’s theory of Forms is exactly that, a theory, with little practical reliability, but we still talk about Platonists.

            Lenin explains that Marx combined and completed the three main ideologies of his time: classical German philosophy, English political economy and French socialism. He did this with his theory of historical and dialectical materialism. Dialectics was central in the philosophy of Marx, which he got from the German philosopher Hegel. But instead of Hegel’s idealism, which put the real things in the abstract entity of the spirit, Marx claimed that it was in the material world where our thinking came from. It was our environment which created our thinking and not the other way around.

            Marx claimed that history was based on the premise of never-ending class struggles which always got a new identity. In his time, it was between the Bourgeois and the Proletariat. Marx’ historical materialism claimed it studied the totality of being, focusing on the social situation of human beings. Previous historical theories ignored the masses, and Marx claimed that his theory was the first theory which included the much-neglected masses. Its end stage would the communist society, where everyone lived in pure equality.

            Lenin then proceeds the explain the economic theory of Marx, where the inconsistencies and contradictions of capitalism are laid bare and are analyzed. In the final stage of historical materialism, we would live in a socialist society and in this socialist society there would be even more growth in productivity than in the capitalist society, less working hours and perfect labor (how exactly this would be obtained is left open). In order to this the proletariat would need to become national. Socialists would abolish classes and with that the state. Only the state needed to die down like a flame being smoldered. All classes needed to become dynamic instead of static. And we need to fight for this. It is better to fight and to lose than to do nothing and to lose. I guess Lenin took this to heart.

            It’s always interesting to learn about the big figures of history and what kind of ideology they maintained. Lenin was a communist and Marxist, this is clear to me. I believe Lenin took Marx to heart, which would explain the fact that the communist manifesto was one of the core books of the Sovjet Union. Understanding your enemies is the first and important step to deal with them. In a world where we are polarizing to the extremes, it is now more important than ever to understand these extremes and find the middle ground.

By elenchusphilosophy

Philosophy student from Ghent, Belgium. I write about what I find interesting which is about nearly anything. Though my guiding question in life is how to be a good person.

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