Lenin and the Practice of Dialectical Thinking

Science and Society 63 (1):40 - 62 (1999)
What did Lenin mean when he claimed to be thinking dialectically about questions of political practice? Renewed interest has been expressed in this subject, but the tendency of most studies is to treat Lenin's dialectic as a metaphysical doctrine consisting of universal laws such as transformation into opposite, and so forth. Emphasizing Lenin's Hegel Notebooks, commentators have argued that his tactical innovations after 1914 were simply applications of these dialectical laws. Examination of Lenin's conception of the dialectic as set forth in his tactical writings after the turn of the century shows, however, that the Leninist practice of dialectical thinking was in fact the very antithesis of metaphysical reason, because it repudiated the universality of abstract rules in the formulation of tactics. Several examples of this practice are examined, including the case of national self-determination and the problem of party dictatorship over the working class.
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