Where to Begin?

Adapted from V.I. Lenin’s original, published in Iskra in 1901.

In recent years the question of “what is to be done” has confronted leftists with particular insistence. It is not a question of what path we must choose (as was the case in the late eighties and early nineties when the DLC was formed), but of what practical steps we must take upon the known path and how they shall be taken. It is a question of a system and plan of practical work. And it must be admitted that we have not yet solved this question of the character and the methods of struggle, fundamental for a party of practical activity, that it still gives rise to serious differences of opinion which reveal a deplorable ideological instability and vacillation.

On the one hand, the “Incrementalist” trend of the Third Way Democrats, far from being dead, is endeavouring to clip and narrow the work of political organisation and agitation. On the other, unprincipled eclecticism is again rearing its head, aping every new “trend”, and is incapable of distinguishing immediate demands from the main tasks and permanent needs of the movement as a whole. This trend, as we know, ensconced itself in the Bernie Sanders movement. During his campaign, he described his platform of moderate social-democrat policies as socialist, leaving many wondering if he was attempting to de-stigmatize the term among indoctrinated Americans, or co-opt the growing movement toward socialism. He spoke of creating a “political revolution” (how energetic we are now—both revolutionary and political!) that would sweep progressive Democrats into office on his coattails. Following his loss at the hands of fellow Democrats and the subsequent victory of the other bourgeoisie party, there has been talk of “resistance”; of “ceaseless calls for street protests”; of “becoming ungovernable”; and so on, and so forth.

We might perhaps declare ourselves happy at Democrats’ quick grasp of the need for resistance and organization, calling for the formation of a strong well-organized movement, but reading the guide shows their aim is limited to winning isolated concessions, and there is a clear lack of enthusiasm for storming the fortress of the capitalist regime itself. Furthermore, the lack of any set point of view in these individuals can only dampen our happiness.

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