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1989: Dawn of Freedom» Forums » General

Subject: Leninism and Leader Cards in 1989 rss

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Ted Torgerson
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I read a really good post by Filip about strategy in playing power struggles, so I thought I would post this article about the role of leaders in power struggle system from the 1989 Facebook page. Hopefully it gives more context to the reason behind the power struggle minigame being included in 1989:

When you draw the cards for a Power Struggle do you find yourself immediately counting your usable leader cards? Do you sometimes use the remove 1 SP wild card to deny control of the elite or intellectual space controlled by your opponent, even if it is not a battleground? Does that extra leader card sometimes tempt you to raise the stakes? When your attack suit is exhausted, do you ever continue the attack with your usable leaders, even when your hand has a short suit? The role of leaders is certainly critical in the game 1989, as it was in that year historically.

Karl Marx did not expect so. As you will recall, Marx saw history as a dialectical process following a predictable course that he had uncovered: from primitive communism and ancient bartering through feudalism, to capitalism. All institutions existing at any point in history – religion, education, government, even the arts - were created by those with economic power to sustain their power. Marx believed that capitalism led to the inevitable concentration of wealth into the hands of ever fewer capitalists and misery for ever greater numbers of workers. When the workers achieved class consciousness they would rise up in revolution to overthrow the capitalist system and in its place establish a dictatorship of the proletariat. The state would seize control of the means of production and eliminate the contradiction of capitalism, the separation of the ownership and operation of the means of production. With the end of class struggle would come the end of history, and in final stage of development the people would live in perfect classless harmony and even the state itself would wither away.

Alas it did not happen exactly as Marx had envisioned. In the aftermath of the First World War those states which Marxism taught had reached the historical point for a worker revolution remained capitalist. In the case of Britain and the United States there was never any possibility of a worker revolution. In Germany there were moments of local Communist revolution in Berlin and Bavaria that were put down by paramilitary FreiKorps units that had been discharged after the Great War. Meanwhile in a peasant state, Tsarist Russia, there had been two revolutions, the first liberal and the second Bolshevik. A group of professional revolutionaries had seized power preaching worker revolution, in a state where more than 80% of the population lived off the land and were just one generation removed from serfdom.

Marx was equal parts social scientist and revolutionary. In unpublished letters he did acknowledge the possibility of a revolution against landowners by the peasantry leading to a socialist state. Lenin was a revolutionary first and last, and his writings were tactical not theoretical. It was Lenin's prescriptions to put revolution into practice that formed the basis of Communism's 40 year rule in Eastern Europe.

Lenin's first principal revision of Marx was to emphasize the importance of leaders. The workers were simple people, unschooled in class war and duped by the capitalists' appeals to religion or patriotism so they would never develop class consciousness. The working class needed a vanguard of intellectual leaders, the Communist Party, to guide them and the revolution. Unsurprisingly, this revision of Marx served Lenin's own purposes perfectly, but in this we think Lenin was exactly right. We hope the game 1989 bears that out. Overwhelming numbers of cards are great (the Hegelian and Marxist concept that "quantity has a quality all its own"), but in a close power struggle the side with effective leaders usually wins.

Lenin's second fundamental principal was revolutionary parties demand discipline. Loyalty to the party must be absolute. There was no room for deviation from the party line; however, there was to be free and open debate within the party before any policy was decided upon. This part of Leninism was known by the paradoxical sounding term “democratic centralism.” After Lenin's second stroke it became a custom honored more in the breach than in the observance. In Stalin's time questioning any policy was virtual suicide. Even during Gorbachev's General Secretaryship it was common practice to invoke democratic centralism merely to coax possible rivals into the open, so they might be demoted in the next Politburo reshuffle. Part of what made Communism so brittle, and its collapse so sudden in 1989, was that original thinkers were quickly weeded out and the Party leadership filled with people well schooled in the party jargon but utterly inflexible and unable to adapt to change.

The concept of a vanguard party leading the worker's state became, in another paradoxical phrase, institutionalized revolution. Each Communist state's constitution extolled “the leading role” of the Communist Party. Typical was the 1936 USSR constitution, which stated:

Quote:
The leading and guiding force of the Soviet society and the nucleus of its political system, of all state organizations and public organizations, is the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The CPSU exists for the people and serves the people. The Communist Party, armed with Marxism-Leninism, determines the general perspectives of the development of society and the course of the home and foreign policy of the USSR, directs the great constructive work of the Soviet people, and imparts a planned, systematic and theoretically substantiated character to their struggle for the victory of communism.


These constitutions in other respects were the models of the world, guaranteeing every manner of human rights including freedom of expression. However the party's leading role rendered the rest of the constitutional provisions meaningless. You could think and say anything, as long as what you said or thought conformed with Marxism-Leninism taught by the Communist Party. Even the governing institutions - the parliament, the foreign ministry, the courts - all were directed by corresponding sub-committees of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. In Eastern Europe, the “leading role” of the party became a license for the general secretary to be as oppressive or lenient as suited his governing style, or as was required by the winds blowing from Moscow.

Well this was a bit long, but hopefully the next time you win a Power Struggle with a leader card you will think of the old Bolsheviks in Petrograd in November 1917, or the actors in the basement of the Magic Lantern theater in Prague in December 1989. Workers of the world unite, and follow the leader!
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Kristof Bodric
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Thanks Ted for this insight that adds flavour to an already delicious game. I grew up in Yugoslavia and I'm familiar with the tenets of Marxism. Heck, we had it as a subject in high school for 4 full years. Nevertheless, I still learn something new each time you post some juicy tidbit. Also, I read "Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire" by Victor Sebestyén, which made many things so much clearer, notwithstanding the poor quality of the Kindle version (poor OCR, no proofreading).
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Filip Laeveren
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Great article!

I love these historical insights.

For me personally, the year 1989 and its revolutions will always be connected with the dead of Danny Huwe, a belgian journalist who reported the romanian revolution. He was shot dead on christmas day by a sniper. A square in Bucarest was named after him.

Until now he is the only belgian war journalist killed when he did his job. I still remember the news flash.

RIP Danny Huwe✌
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