Revolutionary vanguard

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Origins of term

Lenin's ideological contribution was to make the Communist party itself the exclusive "vanguard of the proletariat" and thus the final arbiter of what was proletarian or bourgeois.[1] In Left-Wing" Communism: An Infantile Disorder[2] written in 1920, Lenin discovered his earlier account of the workers' consciousness was too optimistic. Workers are not only indifferent to revolution, they oppose it. To some extent the workers are positively "reactionary." Two stubborn obstacles remain: "force of habit," the powerful attachment to "the forces and traditions of the old society," and "small-scale production," which continues "spontaneously and on a mass scale." Lenin calls "habit", using a Marxian term, "bourgeois passions," the inclination of people to acquire, love, and defend what is their own to the exclusion of others in the community. Springing from and reinforcing this "force of habit in millions and tens of millions" are "millions upon millions of petty proprietors" and "small commodity producers" whose private mode of production continues to foster the non-socialist habits that stand in the way of transition to communism. Since the workers and the rest of the people "can (and must) be remodeled and re-educated only by very prolonged, slow, cautious organizational work" the party must continue to rule dictatorially on behalf of the workers just as it earlier took the lead in making the revolution. This process will take "very many years." The "proletarian vanguard," Lenin admits, is the Politburo of the party, consisting of Lenin and a handful of close colleagues.[3]


  1. Revelations from the Russian Archives, Attacks on Intelligentsia: Suppressing Dissidents, Library of Congress Exhibit. Retrieved March 18, 2010.
  2. V. I. Lenin, "Left-Wing" Communism, An Infantile Disorder (1920) V. I. Lenin, Selected Works, English edition, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1952, Vol. II, Part 2.
  3. Marx and Lenin, Thomas G. West, The Claremont Institute, Posted on October 10, 2006. Retrieved March 18, 2010.