It is hard to find a more slandered figure in human history than Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. Dictatorial, murderous, cynical, immoral. You name it, Lenin has been accused of it. This is done by just about every political current, from the conservative right wing to the liberals, the reformists, and the anarchists. Unfortunately, decades of Stalinist dictatorship in the U.S.S.R. contributed to this caricature.

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None of this corresponds to who Lenin was. The founder of the most revolutionary party in history, a remarkable Marxist theoretician, and a leader of the world’s first victorious workers’ revolution, Lenin’s contribution to the communist movement is beyond measure. This is precisely why he is so hated by the ruling class today.

A knowledge of the genuine ideas of Lenin is essential for anyone wishing to see a victorious communist revolution today. In 2024, the centenary of this great revolutionary’s death, we will be making space in the pages of Communist Revolution [the paper of the IMT in Canada] for his writings, introducing our readers to the ideas that can change the world. Despite the slanders, the lies, and the caricatures, Leninism has stood the test of time.

A fighting revolutionary party

Lenin’s greatest contribution to the communist movement was his insistence on the need for a revolutionary party in order to succeed in overthrowing capitalism. This is what we, Communist Revolution, aim to build today.

In 1900, Lenin founded the newspaper Iskra, around which the revolutionary party would be built. In the launching declaration, he said that we must “unite and direct all our efforts towards the formation of a strong party which must struggle under the single banner of revolutionary Social-Democracy.” (“Revolutionary Social-Democracy” was a term of the day for Marxism.)

Such a Marxist organization cannot be improvised at the time of a revolution; it must be built in advance. In Where to Begin?, Lenin explains:

“[T]he building of a fighting organisation and the conduct of political agitation are essential under any “drab, peaceful” circumstances, in any period, no matter how marked by a “declining revolutionary spirit”; moreover, it is precisely in such periods and under such circumstances that work of this kind is particularly necessary, since it is too late to form the organisation in times of explosion and outbursts; the party must be in a state of readiness to launch activity at a moment’s notice.”

Lenin’s idea has been confirmed by over a hundred years of revolutions.

The working class was created by capitalism. It is the class which, through sheer force of numbers and its place in production, has the potential to overthrow the capitalist system, and establish a society free from exploitation: a communist society. Countless times in history, it has risen in one country after another. However, history shows that a revolution cannot overthrow capitalism spontaneously. A revolutionary party is needed to achieve this, and it cannot be improvized in the heat of battle.

Ten years before the Russian Revolution of 1917, Lenin stressed the importance of the very first years of the effort to build:

“Iskra fought for an organisation of professional revolutionaries… It preserved it in face of the subsequent split in the Iskrist ranks and all the convulsions of the period of storm and stress; it preserved it throughout the Russian revolution [the defeated revolution of 1905]; it preserved it intact from 1901-02 to 1907.”

Only the creation of such a revolutionary party made the 1917 victory possible. The Bolsheviks, with 20 years’ experience of building the party, developing perspectives and tactics to win the workers to their cause, succeeded in bringing the working class to power.

Our task is the same. Sooner or later, there will be revolutionary uprisings in Canada. A revolutionary Communist Party must exist in advance if we are to win. We are still a small force, but the work we do today is what can guarantee the victory of tomorrow.

Marxist cadres

Lenin anti imperialism edit Image public domainThe conditions in which the ideas of Marx and Lenin will find an enormous echo are being created before our eyes / Image: public domain

The task of building the party cannot be left to chance. It won’t happen spontaneously, or without professionalism, seriousness, and sacrifice. Lenin insisted on the creation of a fighting organization of “professional revolutionaries,” steeped in Marxist theory and ready to devote themselves entirely to the struggle—what we today call Marxist cadres.

In the early years of the Russian Marxist movement, a polemic raged between Lenin and the so-called “economists.” The latter believed that the role of communist activists was simply to accompany workers in their immediate day-to-day struggles. They fetishized the “spontaneous,” economic struggle of the workers, and minimized the importance of “politics.” They regarded the theoretical struggle with contempt.

These tendencies are still very much present today. Many “socialist” and “communist” groups hold the study of Marxist theory in utter contempt. They claim it’s not “our” job to “educate” workers, and that theoretical questions don’t really interest workers anyway. They don’t realize that this attitude is incredibly condescending to the workers. Leninism is the antithesis of these repugnant prejudices.

In his book What is to Be Done?, Lenin emphasized the need for Communists not simply to support workers in their struggles, but to work to broaden their horizons, and to link the immediate struggles to a broader struggle against capitalism.

To do this, a study of Marxist theory and its application to class struggle is essential. “Without revolutionary theory, there can be no revolutionary movement,” as Lenin famously said.

The communist program is the result of generalizations drawn from the history of the workers’ struggle. Our perspectives are built on an understanding of the dynamics of the capitalist economy, of inter-imperialist conflicts, and of the history of class struggle in general. Without the foundation of Marxist theory and its rigorous study, we are nothing.

It is the duty of every individual Communist to engage in a serious study of these ideas. That is how we will create a party of cadres capable of coordinating all the efforts of the working class for the seizure of power.

Against this insistence on Marxist theory, we often hear this idea: why can’t “the left” just unite? Can’t we leave our “small” differences aside? The reality is that groups or organizations that “unite” by putting aside differences either do so based on the lowest common denominator, or fundamental disagreements resurface at every step and paralyze action. Lenin responded to this objection as follows:

“Before we can unite, and in order that we may unite, we must first of all draw firm and definite lines of demarcation. Otherwise, our unity will be purely fictitious, it will conceal the prevailing confusion and binder its radical elimination.”

While Leninists are always prepared to work with other tendencies in the movement, we do hold up our separate, communist ideas and identity, confident we can win over the youth and workers.

Communists are under no illusions. In normal times, we are the minority. The ruling ideas are the ideas of the ruling class. To be a Communist is to be prepared to be a minority for a good part of your life. But capitalism constantly creates the conditions of crisis that lead workers to reject the system and seek an alternative. We are living in such a time right now. After an historic period of isolation, communists are now swimming with the current. Millions of young people in every country are opening up to Communism.

The conditions in which the ideas of Marx and Lenin will find an enormous echo are being created before our eyes. If we each build ourselves as Marxist cadres, and unite in a single organization, the future is ours.


Socialism is international or it is nothing. Without the victory of the working class in at least some countries, it is impossible to build socialism. The experience of the U.S.S.R. has clearly shown this. Even in a territory covering a sixth of the planet, Stalin’s idea of “socialism in one country” turned out to be a fantasy.

All his life, Lenin saw himself not as a Russian activist, but as a soldier of the world workers’ movement. The Russian Social Democratic Labour Party he was building was the Russian section of the Socialist International founded by Engels in 1889.

Focusing on Russia, Lenin never took his eyes off the fact that the struggle in Russia was linked to the struggle of workers the world over. Lenin foresaw the possibility that the revolution would begin in Russia, but that to win, it would absolutely have to extend across the world.

When the First World War broke out in 1914, Lenin, as an internationalist, found himself isolated. While the Bolsheviks had steeled themselves in the struggle against the Tsarist state and the Russian ruling class, other “socialist” parties across Europe had increasingly accustomed themselves to making deals and compromises with theirs.

Class collaboration in peace time extended into war time, and in short order, the majority of the world’s socialists capitulated to national chauvinism. With the exception of Russia and Serbia, all the national sections of the Socialist International supported their own bourgeoisie in the war. Thus the “Socialist International” collapsed ignominiously.

Lenin salute Image public domainLenin never took his eyes off the fact that the struggle in Russia was linked to the struggle of workers the world over / Image: public domain

Lenin was among the small minority who resisted chauvinism, and called for the launch of a new International. In September 1915, this small group gathered in Zimmerwald, Switzerland, for a conference of European internationalists. In preparation for the conference, Lenin wrote:

“It is quite understandable that to bring about an international Marxist organisation, there must be a readiness to form independent Marxist parties in different countries. […] We do not, nor can we, know, what developments will take place in the international arena within the next few years. But there is one thing we know for certain, and of which we are unshakably convinced, namely, that our Party, in our country, among our proletariat, will work tirelessly in the above-mentioned direction, and by all its daily activities will build up the Russian section of the Marxist International.”

Although this “Marxist International” did not exist at the time, Lenin saw himself as a member of such an organization! The internationalist spirit runs like a thread in all of Lenin’s life and works.

Two years after Zimmerwald, in 1917, the Bolsheviks seized power, changed their name to the Communist Party, and declared loudly that the world socialist revolution had begun. In March 1919, the Communist International was founded, and Communist parties sprang up in every country. This International made the bourgeoisie everywhere tremble.

If there is one thing Stalinism has sullied, it is this proud tradition of internationalism. Stalin himself dissolved the Communist International in 1943 as a gesture of friendship with the Western imperialists. Today’s remaining Communist parties have absorbed the nationalist prejudices of their bourgeoisie. Typical of this phenomenon is the British Communist Party, which shamefully stands for “progressive patriotism”. These parties are not united in a common international—not to mention the fact that many of them speak only sporadically of the struggle against capitalism.

The activists gathered around Communist Revolution do not merely form a national organization. We are the members of the International Marxist Tendency in Canada. While the left everywhere can’t see further than their nose, we proudly belong to a genuine international organization.

Joining the ranks of Communist Revolution means first and foremost joining the ranks of an international communist organization of thousands of members. We fight in our respective countries with a program and ideas common to our comrades all over the world, born of decades of accumulated experience. This gives us all the confidence that we will succeed.

Overcoming all obstacles

It is impossible to do full justice to Leninism in this short article. There is no better way to learn about Lenin than by reading the countless texts he left behind on every conceivable subject. They are a precious legacy. This year, we plan to reissue texts of Lenin, which we hope will help educate hundreds of communists across Canada.

If there’s one thing that characterizes Leninism, it is an iron will to overcome all the obstacles before us, and an unshakeable confidence in the working class and youth.

All his life, Lenin was the voice that shook up his comrades, urging them to redouble their energy to build the revolutionary party. In the midst of the 1905 revolution, he was outraged by the Bolsheviks’ passivity in the face of mass radicalization. In a letter to a comrade, he wrote:

“The people in Russia are legion; all we have to do is to recruit young people more widely and boldly, more boldly and widely, and again more widely and again more boldly, without fearing them. This is a time of war. The youth—the students, and still more so the young workers—will decide the issue of the whole struggle. Get rid of all the old habits of immobility, of respect for rank, and so on. Form hundreds of circles of Vperyod-ists from among the youth and encourage them to work at full blast. […] We must, with desperate speed, unite all people with revolutionary initiative and set them to work.”

These lines are imbued with a sense of urgency about organizing youth and workers. Today, as then, we must be permeated with this feeling, and work hard to build a communist organization. No one will do it for us.

The capitalist system is dragging us into the abyss. Never in generations have we seen such social malaise, such a rise in poverty, or such misery and inequality. But the crisis of capitalism is paving the way for a revolutionary period—even here in Quebec and Canada.

The victory of the revolution will depend on our ability to create a revolutionary communist party in time, as Lenin and the Bolsheviks did in the past. If this appeals to you, don’t wait—join the comrades of Communist Revolution today!

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