Nechayev in the Andes

Nechayev in the Andes

“The emancipation of the working class is the work of the working class itself,” wrote Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto.

One of the tragic paradoxes of the Marxist movement has been that impatient revolutionaries—appalled by the sluggishness of history and the apparent unwillingness of the working class to be concerned in its alleged interest—have ever since been in search of substitute agents of historical transformation.

Lenin, convinced that unaided working class spontaneity could create trade-union but not political consciousness, bent all his energies to organizing a devoted sect of professionals who would become the real agents of the revolutionary transformation, even though initially they might be mainly intellectuals of middle-class origin. The emancipation of the working class, Lenin believed, could never be accomplished except through the Bolshevik party. And in due course, the party substituted itself for the working class.


Socialist thought provides us with an imaginative and moral horizon.

For insights and analysis from the longest-running democratic socialist magazine in the United States, sign up for our newsletter: