Author: 赤眉 / Chi Mei
Editor’s notes: On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the immortality of Lenin - Long live Leninism!
Although a century has passed since Lenin’s passing, Lenin is not a figure only in the past; much like Chairman Mao, he remains a presence in contemporary society! Especially now, amid the global capitalist crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, Lenin’s practical significance is even more prominent. Lenin represents a formidable challenge to the capitalist system that continues to dominate today’s world; Lenin’s name resounds as the battle cry against this wicked old world; Lenin’s banner points the way to liberation for the toiling masses, who make up the vast majority of humanity, oppressed, confined, and trampled upon by the bourgeoisie and all exploiting classes within the capitalist world.
Lenin’s most outstanding achievement was to achieve the victory of the revolution. That is to say, for the first time in the world history, Lenin led the proletariat and the broad masses of toiling masses to the victory of the proletarian revolution, which has truly overthrown the ruling order of the bourgeoisie and all exploiting classes, smashed the old machinery of state, and established a solid proletarian dictatorship. Because he achieved the victory of the revolution that Lenin fully demonstrated the scientific nature of Marxism through revolutionary practice and developed it into Marxism-Leninism. Because he achieved the victory of the revolution, Lenin became the target of frenzied attacks, abuses, and curses by the bourgeoisie and all advocates of the old world. But at the same time, all the awakened toiling masses will sincerely respect him, miss him, and learn from him.
As Marxist-Leninist-Maoists, there is no doubt that we should learn from Lenin. We should learn from Lenin’s revolutionary path, theory, and practice. The most important thing is that we must learn from Lenin to combine the universal truths of MLM with the realities of today’s world, take root among the toiling masses, and strive to achieve the victory of the revolution.
In this article, we do not want to discuss comprehensively what we need to learn from Lenin. Instead, we will focus on one critical aspect of today’s world: learning from Lenin to uphold the revolutionary class stand of the proletariat in the fight for supremacy that is going on among imperialist countries, strive to win the broad masses of working people to defeat bourgeois nationalism and achieve the victory of the proletarian revolution amid the frenzy of bourgeois nationalism.
Lenin’s theory of imperialism scientifically revealed that capitalism had evolved into the imperialist stage based on the rise of monopoly capital. In this imperialist stage, the core feature of international relations among imperialist countries lies in the rivalry of transnational monopolistic capital for the world market and the consequent fight among imperialist powers for colonial and semi-colonial territories and supremacy of the world. In such social conditions, bourgeois nationalism, which once had served to resist national oppression and establish national independence during the era of the bourgeois revolution, and was therefore progressive, has turned into its opposite. It has transformed into an ideological tool that promotes the expansion and domination of the big bourgeoisie and deceives the toiling masses into becoming cannon fodder for capitalist interests while oppressing the people in colonial and semi-colonial territories.
In imperialist countries, the ideology of bourgeois nationalism and its political forces became one of the fiercest enemies of the proletariat. They struggle with the proletarian revolutionary forces to gain support from the petty bourgeoisie and the working-class masses, serving as a primary tool for the big bourgeoisie to maintain its rule. In latecomer imperialist countries, which have not achieved supremacy of the world and face acute internal and external contradictions, and during significant crises of imperialism, bourgeois nationalism can directly transform into fascism. Then, it acts as the shock troop of the big bourgeoisie to suppress the working-class movements and launch invasive wars.
Therefore, it has become a critical task for the proletarian revolutionaries in imperialist countries to critique and overcome bourgeois nationalism, and unite the largest segment of the toiling masses to eliminate the influence of bourgeois nationalism and stand on the side of the proletarian revolution. If this task is not accomplished, the victory of the proletarian revolution will be impossible.
However, accomplishing this task takes work. In imperialist countries, bourgeois nationalist ideology of the ruling class becomes the dominant ideology permeating society. In other words, not only the big bourgeoisie adhere to bourgeois nationalism, but the middle bourgeoisie, petty bourgeoisie, and even many segments of the working-class masses subscribe to or are significantly influenced by bourgeois nationalism. The reason is that the big bourgeoisie invests vast sums of money to control significant media outlets, co-opts various intellectual elites, and vigorously propagates and argues for bourgeois nationalism. They use their control over the education system to instill capitalist “patriotic” and nationalist ideas in all young minds. Moreover, the competitive and cutthroat nature of capitalist society also fosters a social Darwinist culture that glorifies the law of the jungle, corroding all members of the community and making them susceptible to nationalist ideas that promote the pursuit of “Lebensraum” for their nation while discriminating against and oppressing the “inferior nations”.
In short, the bourgeoisie’s dictatorship in the realm of ideology has established the ruling status of bourgeois nationalist ideology. Furthermore, in imperialist countries, the petty bourgeoisie and the working class, to varying degrees, have vested interests in oppressing other nations. The big bourgeoisie’s expansion and the fight for supremacy, and their exploitation and oppression of the people in colonial and semi-colonial territories allowed them to shift their crises outward. This condition ensures the petty bourgeoisie maintain their class status for a certain period, delaying their descent into the ranks of the proletariat and even creating opportunities for upward mobility within the bourgeoisie class. For the working class, the big bourgeoisie, under the pressure of labor struggles, allocates a portion of the super-profits plundered abroad to buy off the labor aristocracy and invest in some social welfare initiatives, thereby partially improving the living conditions of the working-class masses. These vested interests in oppressing other nations are also a significant social foundation for the dominance of bourgeois nationalist ideology in imperialist countries.
Therefore, bourgeois nationalism tends to be the prevailing ideology for a considerable period in imperialist countries, exerting tremendous social pressure on the proletarian revolutionaries. The big bourgeoisie manipulates public opinion and labels the proletarian revolutionaries who criticize bourgeois nationalism as “persons that hates their own country”, “traitors of the country”, or “lackeys of foreign powers”.
Many “leftists” find it challenging to withstand such social pressure. Consequently, they succumb to the social pressure of bourgeois nationalism and adopt opportunist and revisionist stances on issues related to “nationalism” and the nature of war. This phenomenon is a significant factor in the emergence of opportunism and revisionism within the left wing and working-class movements.
Opportunists and revisionist “leftists” invent various theories to endorse bourgeois nationalism. The following are some typical examples.
The first example is the use of whataboutism. It involves playing the “who is more progressive” game among imperialist groups. Some argue for supporting “democracy” against “autocracy”, others advocate resisting the evil rule of old hegemonic powers, and there are also excuses like “spreading civilization” or “fighting terrorism”. The aim is to argue that one’s own country’s imperialism is relatively progressive, thus justifying one’s own country’s nationalism, expansion, aggression, hegemony, and war as righteous.
The second example is creating an “illusory community.” It involves arguing that external expansion and imperialism serve the interests of a particular nation and benefit the entire populace. It blurs the irreconcilable class contradictions within this nation and hijacks the proletariat under the guise of illusory “national interests” and the “the whole people”.
The third example is “win the masses”. It involves using the reality that most people are influenced by bourgeois nationalism as an excuse to argue that to “win the masses”, one must cater to bourgeois nationalism. However, it fails to recognize that bourgeois nationalism fundamentally serves the big bourgeoisie. Catering to nationalism isn’t about winning over the masses but delivering the proletariat masses to the big bourgeoisie. It’s a fundamentally treacherous act that forfeits the independence of the proletariat revolutionary forces.
The fourth example is “Use the red banner as camouflage.” This characteristic is a unique phenomenon in social imperialist countries like the revisionist Soviet Union, which refers to the imperialist nations that emerged from the restoration of former socialist states and continue to use the banner of socialism. It involves using the facade of socialism to deny the fundamental class nature of the big bourgeoisie’s dictatorship in social imperialist countries, portraying the expansion of social imperialism as opposition to imperialism and the promotion of socialism.
Therefore, we must learn from Lenin! Lenin is a brilliant example of maintaining the proletarian revolutionary stance and opposing bourgeois nationalism. He never succumbed or yielded under the social pressure of bourgeois nationalism but dared to swim against the current, resolutely fighting against nationalism. He never compromised with the opportunistic and revisionist “leftists” but consistently criticized their fallacies and vehemently battled against their erroneous paths.
Lenin had a firm revolutionary class stand of the proletariat because he systematically grasped the science of Marxism, combined with revolutionary practice alongside the working-class masses, and engaged in relentless struggles against opportunism and revisionism. Through these efforts, he overcame the influence of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie, firmly positioning himself on the side of the proletariat.
Faced with the various lies and fallacies of bourgeois nationalism, opportunism and revisionism, Lenin applied the scientific tool of thorough class analysis to discern their essence. He sought to answer critical questions: Which class rules the state, and whose interests does the state serve? For activities such as the expansion, those fights for supremacy, and wars, he delved into identifying which class drives these actions and whose interests are being served. Regardless of how bourgeois nationalism, opportunism and revisionism tried to disguise themselves, the essence of imperialist states, their fights for supremacy, and their wars would be revealed through the lens of class analysis.
During World War I, when faced with the wartime “total mobilization” and temporary patriotic fervor in the participating imperialist countries, and the oppression exerted by the imperialist state apparatuses, most of the “working-class” parties within the Second International sided with imperialism. They blurred the imperialist nature of the war and supported their own country’s bourgeoisie during the war. However, Lenin led the Bolshevik Party in staunchly opposing the imperialist war, identifying the true nature of the war as a struggle between two groups of imperialist robbers. He put forward the revolutionary line of the proletariat, advocating to “turn the imperialist war into a civil war”.
After the February Revolution, all political forces representing the bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie in Russia advocated continuing the imperialist war and taking it to its conclusion. They presented various reasons, such as claiming that the "nature of the war had transformed into defending the homeland after the revolution” or that “winning the war would greatly benefit the Russian Republic and the Russian nation”. Even some Bolsheviks were influenced by these arguments, and their positions on the war issue wavered. However, Lenin remained unwavering. He explicitly pointed out that the state after the February Revolution was still a state of bourgeois dictatorship. Therefore, the nature of the war had not changed; it was still a war in which the Russian bourgeoisie and imperialist powers were fighting over spoils. The proletariat was merely cannon fodder in such a war. Therefore, Lenin insisted on resolutely opposing the war and adhering to the revolutionary line of “turning the imperialist war into a civil war.”
It is precisely because Lenin resolutely opposed bourgeois nationalism and used profound class analysis to expose the essence of imperialist countries and wars that he was able to propose the revolutionary path of “turning imperialist war into a civil war.” Subsequently, Lenin implemented this path to mobilize the working class, unite the peasant class, and ultimately achieve the victory of the October Revolution. Today’s Marxist-Leninist-Maoists must learn from Lenin’s shining example.
Learning from Lenin is not just about adopting his firm revolutionary class stand of the proletariat, insightful class analysis, and resolute opposition to bourgeois nationalism. Suppose one only resolute opposition to bourgeois nationalism, insightful analysis, and firm stand but cannot mobilize the majority of the working-class masses or win over the broadest toiling masses. In that case, it was a single-handed determination that, though admirable, fell short of securing the victory of the proletariat revolution. For example, figures like Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg in Germany, while staunchly opposing imperialist war, could not transform the war into a triumphant proletarian revolution. These two martyrs deserve everlasting remembrance by the proletariat of the world, but they may not represent the best learning models. Therefore, we must also look to Lenin to understand how to overcome bourgeois nationalism.
Can the dominant bourgeois nationalism in imperialist countries, which may even represent the ideology of the majority for an extended period, be defeated? Lenin’s revolutionary practice demonstrates that it’s entirely possible to overcome it!
The rationale behind this lies in the fundamental social structure within imperialist countries, which continues to involve the exploitation and oppression of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie. The underlying conflict between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, determined by the inherent nature of the capitalist mode of production, remains unchanged. While bourgeois nationalism may deceive for a time, and the super-profits generated by imperialist expansion might bribe the labor aristocracy and have a corrupting influence on the working class, it cannot alter the inherent nature of the capitalist mode of production, disassemble the fundamental social structure of imperialism, or erase the fundamental class contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. These realities provide the solid groundwork for the defeat of bourgeois nationalism.
As long as most of the proletariat recognizes their fundamental class interests and unites to form a self-aware revolutionary force, bourgeois nationalism will inevitably defeated by it. The reason why bourgeois nationalism still rules for a time is simply that the proletariat is still in a dispersed and unconscious “in-itself” stage.
Hence, the vanguard should draw inspiration from Lenin and immerse themselves deeply within the working-class masses. Through meticulous grassroots organization and the leadership of mass struggles (which swiftly reveal the deception of bourgeois nationalism), instill Marxist-Leninist-Maoist theory with the working-class masses, fostering self-aware revolutionary force. The revolutionary force must transcend the constraints of the bourgeois “system” and refrain from prioritizing reforms within it or becoming mere temporary fixes to capitalism. Instead, they should concentrate on gradually diminishing and seizing local bourgeois power, establishing the embryonic form of proletarian dictatorship, and strengthening the revolutionary force. Via the protracted struggle, most of the proletariat can be swayed toward the side of the revolutionary forces. That constitutes the pathway to overcoming bourgeois nationalism and laying the groundwork for the victory of the proletarian revolution. This revolutionary path is synonymous with the one led by Lenin’s Bolshevik Party. Today’s Marxist-Leninist-Maoists must learn from Lenin, perpetuate and refine this revolutionary line under contemporary circumstances. They must refrain from being a secluded faction centered solely on ideology and discourse, akin to the Left Wing of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) before World War I. Failing to engage with the masses and neglecting the formation of an independent revolutionary force, regardless of the correctness of their ideology, will perpetually inhibit their ability to overcome bourgeois nationalism.
In the capitalist general crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, imperialist countries are bound to intensify the instigation of bourgeois nationalism to curb the revolutionary inclinations of the toiling masses and to facilitate the external transfer of the crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has also led to new shifts in the balance of imperialist forces, which will inevitably result in even more intense competition between the latecomer imperialist powers and the old imperialist powers. Both will exploit bourgeois nationalism to the fullest as a tool in their fights for supremacy.
It is paramount for Marxist-Leninist-Maoists to draw even more profound lessons from Lenin. They must firmly expose and critique bourgeois nationalism and persistently work to overcome it through practical efforts, advancing toward a brighter future for the proletariat and the broad toiling masses of the world!
Let us emulate Lenin in overcoming bourgeois nationalism!
Let us inherit Lenin’s legacy and carry the proletarian revolution through to the end!
 In Chinese, “the theory of imperialism” is usually used to refer to the book titled “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism”, which is written by Lenin.
 These three phrases are common terms used by “patriots” in capitalist China.
 Whataboutism is a common method used by Soviet social-imperialism in political propaganda against other imperialist countries. Chinese social-imperialism inherited it. Whataboutists refuse to respond directly to their critics, instead attacking similar shortcomings in other imperialist countries - that is, comparing who is worse.
 This phrase could be found in “win the masses in their millions for the anti-japanese national united front”, vol.1, Selected Works of Mao Zedong.