EDITORIAL: Happy birthday, Lenin

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The following is an editorial written in 2006 when this publication was a 20-page print weekly called People's Weekly World and Nuestro Mundo. While the global movement for socialism continues to assess the incredible gains people won after the 1917 Russian Revolution, and, ultimately, the fatal weaknesses that ended socialism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, the ideas of Vladimir Lenin still carry currency today. Happy birthday, Lenin!

More than 60 years ago, the great African American poet Langston Hughes wrote:

Lenin walks around the world.

Frontiers cannot bar him. 

Neither barracks nor barricades impede. 

Nor does barbed wire scar him.

 

Lenin walks around the world. 

Black, brown, and white receive him. 

Language is no barrier. 

The strangest tongues believe him.

 

Lenin walks around the world. 

The sun sets like a scar. 

Between the darkness and the dawn 

There rises a red star.

Hughes was writing about Vladimir Lenin, a leader of the Russian Revolution — the world’s first socialist revolution. April 22 is the anniversary of Lenin’s birth.

Lenin took up scientific socialism where its founders, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, left off. He analyzed imperialism, a phase of capitalism he said was characterized by huge monopolies, the dominance of big banks and the carving up of the world among the great capitalist powers.

The growth of the transnational corporations and the ruthlessness of many imperialist governments, with the U.S. at the fore, show that Lenin’s analysis was right. The war in Iraq is a prime example. It’s a war for U.S. corporate control of resources, especially oil.

But Lenin didn’t stop there. He underlined the need of workers in the imperialist countries to see their own self-interest in allying with the peoples of oppressed nations.

He noted that the exploiters of those countries were the same exploiters of workers in the oppressor nations. Seeing the need to end that shared exploitation, he called for changing the slogan “Workers of the world unite” to “Workers and oppressed peoples of the world unite.”

That slogan still rings true today. For those of us in the U.S., it calls upon us to fight to bring our troops home, to demand no permanent bases in Iraq, and that reparations be paid to help the Iraqi people rebuild a secure and sovereign nation.

The contribution that Lenin made to the theory of imperialism was immense, as were his other contributions, like the need for a political party that represents the interests of the working class and allies, known in many countries, including this one, as the Communist Party.

Lenin still walks around the world — in the struggles for workers and oppressed people to be free from poverty, exploitation, war and racism — and to join together to build a better world.

Photo: The largest statue of Lenin in the United States can be found in Seattle. (djwhelan/CC)