Factory of Strategy

Factory of Strategy: Thirty-Three Lessons on Lenin

ANTONIO NEGRI
Translated by Arianna Bove
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/negr14682
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  • Book Info
    Factory of Strategy
    Book Description:

    Factory of Strategyis the last of Antonio Negri's major political works to be translated into English. Rigorous and accessible, it is both a systematic inquiry into the development of Lenin's thought and an encapsulation of a critical shift in Negri's theoretical trajectory.

    Lenin is the only prominent politician of the modern era to seriously question the "withering away" and "extinction" of the state, and like Marx, he recognized the link between capitalism and modern sovereignty and the need to destroy capitalism and reconfigure the state. Negri refrains from portraying Lenin as a ferocious dictator enforcing the proletariat's reappropriation of wealth, nor does he depict him as a mere military tool of a vanguard opposed to the Ancien Régime. Negri instead champions Leninism's ability to adapt to different working-class configurations in Russia, China, Latin America, and elsewhere. He argues that Lenin developed a new political figuration in and beyond modernity and an effective organization capable of absorbing different historical conditions. He ultimately urges readers to recognize the universal application of Leninism today and its potential to institutionally -- not anarchically -- dismantle centralized power.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51942-7
    Subjects: Philosophy, Religion, Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-x)
  3. PREFACE TO THE ENGLISH TRANSLATION
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    Antonio Negri
  4. PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION
    (pp. xvii-xxiv)
  5. TRANSLATOR’S NOTE
    (pp. xxv-xxviii)
  6. PART ONE Lenin and Our Generation
    • 1 TOWARD A MARXIST READING OF LENIN’S MARXISM
      (pp. 3-14)

      This year, in three groups of lessons, along with a few interludes and appendices, we aim to arrive at an understanding of Vladimir Lenin, though without suggesting that it is possible to arrive at any sort of conclusive reading. Primarily, we compare problems that are born from Leninism with issues that arise out of today’s workers’ movement. These three groups of lessons are: First, an introduction that centers on the fundamentals of Lenin’s thought. We will follow how problems in Lenin’s political theory are developed, comparing them with how it is that we, today, handle similar problems. The second and...

    • 2 FROM THE THEORY OF CAPITAL TO THE THEORY OF ORGANIZATION (1) Economic Struggle and Political Struggle: Class Struggle
      (pp. 15-28)

      In this section we begin from Lenin’s reading of Marx, in particular, his approach to the theory of organization as derived from a theory of capital (lessons 2–5). In the second part of our discussion (lessons 5–8) we analyze the question of the program to see how one proceeds from a theory of organization to a theory of revolution: what shifts can be dissected in Lenin, and how historically determined were they by the practice in which he operated? For ease of inquiry, we will keep this first tranche of the reconstruction of Lenin’s discourse separate from the...

    • 3 FROM THE THEORY OF CAPITAL TO THE THEORY OF ORGANIZATION (2) The Working-Class Character of Organization: The Party as Factory
      (pp. 29-39)

      In the previous lesson we saw how the methodological framework Lenin provides for his reading ofCapitaland the relation he establishes between the theory of capital and the theory of the working-class movement led to a series of consequences that form the basis of the discussion on organization, using concepts such as determinate social formation. We saw how this discourse unfolds through an appreciation of the movements of spontaneity and economic struggle, which would become fundamental to Lenin’s thought throughout his experience. We have also seen how a descent into the concreteness of the composition of the working class...

    • 4 IN LENIN’S FOOTSTEPS FROM THE THEORY OF CAPITAL TO THE THEORY OF ORGANIZATION Annotations
      (pp. 40-49)

      We have now come to the first point of verification in our debate. What this entails is an attempt to determine not so much the correctness of Lenin’s journey from the theory of capital to the theory of organization, in its historically determined moment or, to use his terms, in its determinate social formation, but rather a definition, problematic as it may be, of the correspondence between Lenin’s discourse and the problems that the theory of class struggle presents us with today. We will later apply this kind of analysis to another fundamental shift in Lenin, that from the theory...

    • 5 FROM THE THEORY OF ORGANIZATION TO THE STRATEGY OF THE REVOLUTION (1) Proletarian Independence
      (pp. 50-57)

      We have seen how the analysis of the subject imposes crucial elements on the Leninist model of organization. In particular, the location of the workers’ vanguard in relation to the totality of the proletariat determined the externality of revolutionary consciousness. We particularly insisted on Lenin’s definition of organization and how his thought is deeply inserted into the reality of the mass development of class struggles; an aspect we have analyzed in this respect is often neglected in the interpretation of Lenin’s thought, and that is his emphasis and insistence on the processes of spontaneity, the importance of economic struggle, and...

    • 6 FROM THE THEORY OF ORGANIZATION TO THE STRATEGY OF THE REVOLUTION (2) The Factory of Strategy
      (pp. 58-69)

      In the last conversation we saw how the issue of the shift from the question and practice of organization to the question of strategy needs to be brought to bear on the definition of the political composition of the working class and the proletariat in Russia, grouped under the scientific category of determinate social formation, and how the concept of the independence of proletarian organization (which was the condition of strategy) was also based on the same category. Where the working class was a socially distinct vanguard within the proletariat, the externality of the process of organization and the need...

    • 7 FROM THE THEORY OF ORGANIZATION TO THE STRATEGY OF THE REVOLUTION (3) Organization Toward Communism
      (pp. 70-77)

      We will now conclude our analysis of the shift from the theory of organization to the strategy of the revolutionary process as outlined by Lenin. We have already insisted on several points, in particular on the independence of the proletarian party as a condition of any strategic proposal, and secondly on the fact that the revolutionary character of organization derives, in its historically determinate formation, from its working-class character and therefore from the particular dialectics established between the workers’ leadership of organization and the general determinations of the social formation, both at the level of alliances and at the level...

    • 8 IN LENIN’S FOOTSTEPS FROM THE THEORY OF ORGANIZATION TO THE STRATEGY OF REVOLUTION Annotations
      (pp. 78-87)

      We would like to present a conclusive judgment on the theory of organization, or rather, on the relation between the theory of organization and the strategy of revolution that we have outlined so far. Let us summarize the main issues on which we have concentrated. We have seen that organization is the condition for strategy, from at least 1903, throughout the period of theoretical development ofWhat Is to Be Done?and the revolution of 1905. The concept of organization is linked to a determinate analysis of the Russian situation, and defined as the condition for all possible strategies insofar...

    • 9 INSURRECTION AS ART AND PRACTICE OF THE MASSES
      (pp. 88-98)

      With this lesson, we reach the conclusion of the first part of our discussion and can outline some of the problems that we raised and will return to in the course of our future conversations. These problems concern: Lenin’s political practice in the Soviets and their relation to the party; Lenin’s dialectical methodology in relation to Marxist tradition; the problem of the withering-away of the state, posited inThe State and Revolutionand also confronted in other preparatory texts on Marxist state theory; finally, the questions raised by the polemic on extremism. The first part of the debate that we...

  7. PART TWO Lenin and the Soviets in the Russian Revolution and Some Remarks on Sovietism
    • 10 THE SOVIETS BETWEEN SPONTANEITY AND THEORY
      (pp. 101-112)

      A historical analysis of Lenin’s judgment on the Soviet in the various phases of the Russian revolution, a judgment that is essentially unitary but deeply complex, must preliminarily reflect on the singularity of Lenin’s method. Lenin’s method seems to give prominence to practical-theoretical reflections on each aspect of the analysis, especially the issue of the doctrinarian Marxist tradition and the theoretical analysis of the specific development of the real movement of class and capital in Russia. Lenin eviscerates these analytical aspects, reshapes, and renovates them while always subjecting them to the sectarianism of the practice that innervates his notion of...

    • 11 LENIN AND THE SOVIETS BETWEEN 1905 AND 1917
      (pp. 113-122)

      Lenin’s refusal to accept the either-or alternative between Soviet or party, his claim that the Soviet is the organism immediately instrumental to insurrection while to the party is entrusted the permanent and final ends of the revolutionary movement in a polemic and demystification of the Menshevik program, and the ambiguity of the Soviet we mentioned earlier are all further clarified by his writings of the period of 1906 to 1907, the year of the bourgeois recovery. While during the most acute period of struggle, when the Soviets were directly invested and configured by the workers’ struggle, the risk of their...

    • 12 THE SOVIETS AND THE LENINIST INVERSION OF PRAXIS
      (pp. 123-136)

      On the premises of these previous lessons, we must now assess Lenin’s theoretical and tactical judgment on the Soviets in 1917. Forgetting his judgment of these years often leads to the temptation of finding contradictions or, at least, solutions of continuity within a position that rediscovers, thanks to its adherence to a method, a singular consistency and unity: in Lenin’s case, this method is the sectarianism of subversive praxis, the connection of each theoretical statement to its proletarian verification, which is always part of the project of permanent revolution.

      The first motif in Lenin’s judgment on the Soviet in 1917...

    • 13 THE REFORMIST CHANGE OF PRAXIS Soviets Today?
      (pp. 137-143)

      It is still controversial to say that the Leninist concept of the Soviet is not ideological, that the nexus between the party and the organisms of the masses is an open one, and that the relation between the ability of the party to be effective and the power of the masses to innovate can be turned around. The fact is that the Soviets that emerged from the October revolution were institutionalized, and their development was subservient to the needs of the development of capitalism in Russia (though in a popular and state form). Instead of becoming a force of innovation...

    • 14 VERIFYING THE QUESTION OF WHETHER THE SOVIET IS AN ORGAN OF POWER
      (pp. 144-150)

      For lenin, the Soviet was primarily an organ of power. In a long polemic that directly hinges on an analysis of Russian revolutions and is nurtured by a return to the theory of the experience of the Paris Commune,¹ Lenin progressively sizes down the figure of the Soviet, the particular content of its power, and the form of management of the power that pertains to it, and links different aspects to the overall issue of strategy and organization. The outcome is a concept that is adequate to the definition of the political composition of class, a very dynamic and open...

    • 15 THE SOVIET FORM OF THE MASSES AND THE URGENCY OF WORKERS’ STRUGGLE
      (pp. 151-156)

      “All power to the Soviets.” The resonance of this slogan marked the beginning of insurrection: from the dualism of power, to the storming of the Winter Palace, to the dictatorship of the proletariat. The antagonism of the capital relation not only needs to be dominated from within, from the organization of Soviets as organs of power, but must also be destroyed by the Soviets’ initiative as organs of struggle and insurrection. This is the red thread in Lenin’s teachings. But what does it mean to us, confronted with the political composition of the working class as it is now? What...

  8. PART THREE Interregnum on the Dialectic:: The Notebooks of 1914–1916
    • 16 DIALECTICS AS A RECOVERED FORM OF LENIN’S THOUGHT
      (pp. 159-168)

      We begin by studying a group of Lenin’s writings written between 1914 and 1916, two large collections of readings: thePhilosophical Notebooksand theNotebooks on Imperialism.¹ ThePhilosophical Notebookscontain notes from readings that are cited in full with Lenin’s comments, general opinions, comparisons, and evaluations to the side. In particular, the most interesting part of thePhilosophical Notebooksis the section on his reading of Hegel’sThe Science of Logic. Lenin completed this reading between September 1914 and December 17 of the same year. Then, from December to May he read Hegel’sLessons on the History of Philosophy...

    • 17 LENIN READS HEGEL
      (pp. 169-178)

      We have tried to define the situation in which Lenin’s notebooks on dialectics and imperialism were written. Let us now begin to study the nucleus of hisNotebooks on Philosophy, or, more properly, his notebooks on dialectics. The core of these notebooks consists in Lenin’s commentary on Hegel’sThe Science of Logic. The particular condition by which Lenin’s study is constrained—at times these notebooks seem more of an escape from the misery of his times than a theoretical necessity—fortunately and dramatically reacts thanks to our author’s overall commitment. His study of dialectics assumes an absolutely fundamental role. Dialectics...

    • 18 BETWEEN PHILOSOPHY AND POLITICS The Weapon of Dialectics
      (pp. 179-188)

      We have discussed how the needs internal to materialist and Marxist argumentations led Lenin to an interpretation of dialectics that was initially charged with relationist, Spinozian, and almost mechanistic elements, and how these elements gradually came to fade from it. But this was not a straightforward process: Lenin seems to force the originality of his approach after feeling rejected by the formidable power of the productive standpoint in Hegel’s dialectics. In fact, in the first part of his commentary, whenever relationism is overcome and turned into an argument on production, with adequate ontological support, Lenin looks for a cover, which...

  9. PART FOUR The Economic Foundations of the Withering-Away of the State:: Introduction to the Reading of The State and Revolution
    • 19 “WHERE TO BEGIN?”
      (pp. 191-202)

      Let’s start readingThe State and Revolution. What has been said so far is essentially an introduction to the discussion found inThe State and Revolution. This work is at the heart of Lenin’s thought and the reason why revolutionary workers will always be Leninist. Our reading is going to concentrate on chapter 5, entitled “Economic Basis of the Withering Away of the State.” We will obviously read the previous chapters first to see how the question of the withering-away of the state, which is central to this work, is justified and developed. The edition I am using¹ has the...

    • 20 THE CONCEPT OF STATE IN GENERAL CAN AND MUST BE DESTROYED
      (pp. 203-215)

      “The state is the product and the manifestation of theirreconcilabilityof class antagonisms.”¹ The very existence of the state shows that contradictions between classes are not reconcilable; the detection of a dialectical nexus, in the sense of antagonism, is found wherever there is a state. Providing the evidence of this thesis is a task that Lenin initially assumes as fundamental: “therecoveryof Marx’s real teachings on the state.”

      What does this definition mean? First of all, Lenin refers to Engels’s theory onThe Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. According to Engels, the origin of...

    • 21 OPPORTUNIST AND REVOLUTIONARY CONCEPTIONS OF THE WITHERING-AWAY OF THE STATE
      (pp. 216-223)

      The comment to this passage from Engels’sAntidühringopens the fourth paragraph of the first chapter ofThe State and Revolution, concerned with “the withering-away of the state and violent revolution.” This issue is at the heart of Lenin’s discussion and here we find a synthetic and formidable preview of the development of the work as a whole: the preview is polemical and forces the pace of the argumentation but also connects the analytical moment to a political proposal and changes the direction of the whole debate. As we have already pointed out, the target of Lenin’s attack is a...

    • 22 THE PROBLEM OF THE “WITHERING-AWAY” OF THE STATE Against Equality
      (pp. 224-233)

      The last part of the fourth paragraph of the first chapter, a summary of the theses presented so far, interests us for two reasons: First, from a methodological standpoint. Lenin insists on the fact that only dialectics allows for a correct understanding of the stages of the revolutionary project.

      We know what the role of dialectics is for Lenin: on the one hand, dialectics makes it possible to understand the relation of continuity between structure and superstructure, institutional moment and materiality of political struggle, and to bring the terms of class struggle to bear on the theory of the political...

    • 23 FIRST APPROACH TO A DEFINITION OF THE MATERIAL BASES OF THE “WITHERING-AWAY” Against Work, Against Socialism
      (pp. 234-245)

      In the fifth chapter ofThe State and Revolution, Lenin still extensively focuses on a critique of the Gotha program, before approaching the issue of the withering-away of the state and the first phase of communism. At first, this long introduction seems different and less effortless in the context of the economy of his debate, but it is not so. In fact, this discussion is necessary for him to link again the issue of the withering-away of the state with its materialist dimension, which entails an assault on and destruction of the law of value, or, rather, its exasperation and...

    • 24 MARX’S ANTICIPATION OF THE PROBLEM OF “WITHERING-AWAY” Against the Law of Value
      (pp. 246-254)

      This lesson is, so to speak, a parenthesis in the unfolding discussion, and a paradoxical one too, because we suggest that in order to understand Lenin and offer a reading of his works that throws light on contemporary issues, we need to take a further step back. In Marx, we want to read a Marxist prediction of our present that is consonant with Leninist thought.

      Marx confronts the question of “withering away” especially in theGrundrisse, in the framework of an analysis of the capitalist laws of development and mode of production. Obviously, the discussion is broached schematically and by...

    • 25 TOWARD A PROBLEMATIC VIEW OF TRANSITION Impossible Socialism and the Coming Communism
      (pp. 255-264)

      In the last lesson we examined the way Marx’sGrundrisseoffers important anticipations of the functioning of the law of value in advanced capitalism. These anticipations are now a reality. In our situation, a mystification of (and transition to) socialism has been fully experienced by capital itself, and capital has transfigured the functioning of the law of value: today the so-called first phase of communist society, or more properly the socialist phase where the law of value needs to function, is not so much a sign of the perpetuation of inequality, but one of its impossibility. Insofar as the law...

    • 26 ON THE PROBLEM OF TRANSITION AGAIN The Word to the Masses
      (pp. 265-273)

      We are now returning to the issue of transition as framed by Lenin to confront it with the urgent theoretical and practical questions that face us today, and we will eventually return to the four specific fundamental issues outlined previously. First, we need to consider other general questions, in particular about the safeguard against the dangers of utopianism as we find it in Lenin. This danger is particularly present in discussions of the issue of transition; we might go as far as to say that in the socialist tradition the problem of transition emerges as a response to real and...

    • 27 TRANSITION AND PROLETARIAN DICTATORSHIP The Particular Interests of the Working Class
      (pp. 274-284)

      We have already seen how Marx’s and Lenin’s formidable feats were to use the method of the masses and raise the question of transition from the standpoint of the workers. What interests us is that this entailed a positing of the question from a political perspective and thus, preliminarily, from outside an economicist or related perspective. I think that this is extremely important and needs to be underlined. In fact, such framing of the question eventually disappeared from the discussion of the workers’ movement: we would have to wait something like fifty years, until the actions of the Chinese Communist...

    • 28 TRANSITION, MATERIAL BASIS, AND EXPANSIVENESS OF THE WORKING-CLASS GOVERNMENT
      (pp. 285-293)

      To seek further confirmation of our interpretation of some of the most important issues in Lenin’s text, in this lesson we are going to concentrate on the third chapter ofThe State and Revolution, entitled “Experience of the Paris Commune of 1871: Marx’s Analysis.”

      In this chapter, three main theoretical issues arise and need to be interpreted. The first emerges from a reading of Marx’s historical writings and his notion of the revolutionary shift in the context of Lenin’s polemic against the vulgar social democratic conception of it. Lenin refers to Marx’s text on the Civil War in France and...

    • 29 A PROVISIONAL CONCLUSION Lenin and Us
      (pp. 294-300)

      Chapter 4, on “Supplementary Explanations by Engels,” keeps to the themes of the third chapter and reinstates the question of the smashing of the state with an eye to Engels’s writings after 1871. From our point of view, not much can be recovered from it, because it consists in a series of repetitions and philological points on questions that were already expressed, with no new elements of note.

      One interesting point for us, both methodologically and substantially, is found in the fourth paragraph, entitled “Criticism of the Draft of the Erfurt Program.” Here Lenin raises the issue of the economic...

  10. PART FIVE Appendix on “Left-Wing” Communism:: A Conclusion and a Beginning
    • 30 A DIFFICULT BALANCE
      (pp. 303-311)

      “Left-wing” communism, anInfantile Disorderis a party manual, a manual for a party that has won and has begun to develop a strategic and tactical plan to build the model of the workers’ international, which subsequently became the foundation of the international organizational structures for the defense, the expansion, and the control of the expansion of the Soviet revolution: “I shall begin with our own experience—in keeping with the general plan of the present pamphlet, the object of which is to apply to Western Europe whatever is of general application, general validity and generally binding force in the...

    • 31 A DEFINITION OF “LEFT-WING” COMMUNISM, AND SOME (ADEQUATE?) EXAMPLES
      (pp. 312-323)

      Lenin’s pamphlet starts with an irrefutable definition of left-wing communism, a definition that is still valid today, if we substitute some of its terms, and that is grounded in the experience of struggle of the Russian party outlined in both its material origins and its theoretical and practical character. Let us read the definition:

      It is far from sufficiently known as yet abroad that Bolshevism grew up, took shape, and became steeled in long years of struggle againstpetty-bourgeois revolutionism, which smacks of, or borrows something from, anarchism, and which falls short, in anything essential, of the conditions and requirements...

    • 32 TOWARD A NEW CYCLE OF STRUGGLES
      (pp. 324-331)

      “Left-wing” communism is not only a correct definition of a petty bourgeois adventurist and terroristic deviation; it is not only the proposal of a Bolshevik model and the attempt to push for, in this way and in the short term, a formidable acceleration of the pace of the revolutionary process; it is not only even a series of exemplifications or applications of the Bolshevik model to the vicissitudes of class struggle and organization in Western European countries with the difficulties this entails.“Left-Wing” Communismis also the start of anew theme, the voluntary and decisive foreboding of a new...

    • 33 FROM “LEFT-WING” COMMUNISM TO WHAT IS TO BE DONE?
      (pp. 332-338)

      The burden of proof of the difficult equilibrium of“Left-Wing” Communismfell on the development of class struggle in two ways. First, by exposing its negative side, the vicissitudes of the Communist International could not be more implacable evidence of the grave deviations “to the right” provoked by that polemic against “leftism,” so much so that the actual continuity of the international workers’ movement was definitively broken, with no possibility of turning back and restoring it. Secondly, it exposed its positive side in the interpretation of the new workers’ struggles around the world. In this respect, we should note that...