What is Vanguardism?

Vladimir Lenin, who is said to have popularized political vanguardism.
Vladimir Lenin, who is said to have popularized political vanguardism.

Proponents of socialism follow several ideas of Vladimir Lenin, especially his idea on the vanguard. According to the idea of a vanguard party, the socialists need to organize themselves based on the principles of democratic centralism with the aim of gaining a considerable influence on the class struggle. The individuals who consider themselves as the elite form an organization that would help them draw more working class and financially stable individuals, with the main purpose of fighting the enemies and of their schools of thought. The party is strictly centralized and members are expected to be united on all fronts and speak in one voice. Vanguards then try to place their organizations at the center of a revolutionary movement, making it more popular among its supporters.

Vanguard Political Party

Lenin, who was the first leader of Bolsheviks, came up with the term vanguard party. He argued that a vanguard party was an asset that could be used to achieve communist revolution through a practical party and political leadership. The core purpose of the vanguard party is to put up a dictatorial form of leadership which is to be sponsored by the working class and the financially stable member in the society. Socialism has been made possible due to the constant changes in the working class.

In the first quarter of the 20th century, Lenin, a Russian philosopher argued that the vanguard party would pioneer the revolution to overturn the Tsarist government, and thereafter transfer the legislative power of the government to the working class members of the party. A vanguard party exists for two main reasons. First, it is to protect the members from external influence as well as advance its concepts. Secondly, it is to educate the new members on the principles of vanguardism to cleanse them from the individual self-consciousness and to instill the “class consciousness” in them.

Are Vanguard Parties Effective?

Vanguard parties are not effective as revolutionary change agents. However, vanguards are effective and efficient in several things including reproducing hierarchy into a revolutionary movement. The party is efficient in producing a bureaucratic regime within both the current social movement and future revolutionary movements that may be formed. Once in power, vanguard party shapes the society in its own image. Vanguard parties are generally anti-social because without the party, revolution would not be possible. The party’s role is to instill socialist politics into the working class that is not able to develop them by itself.

Limitations of Vanguardism

Vanguards are considered to be anti-social, probably because of the laws Lenin imposed on them. Lenin had put it out clearly that without a radical party, no revolution is possible. The implication is that the working class cannot independently work and liberate itself by its own efforts. This is most definitely because working class cannot independently develop its own political laws and theory. Failure to develop its own political laws and theories leads to failure to transform the society in almost all aspects. Without the radical revolutions and movements to provide the working class with socialist and vanguard ideas, then the transformation that the movement is seeking is close to impossible to achieve. Vanguards rarely meet the hopes and aspirations of their supporters. The parties are prone to splitting as well as play a negative role in the social struggle.


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