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@critic
Leninism

My impression is that Leninist groups are usually pretty intolerant of people deviating from the party line. None of the ones I've encountered in the past have functioning internal democracies or real plurality of currents. This makes it very difficult to work inside them except as a functionary or loyalist. They will often come across as open, tolerant, democratic and not hostile to your views at first, when they're trying to recruit you, but the expectation is that you'll come into line later. If you start articulating your own politics inside the organisation, you'll find at best that everything you do bounces off a brick wall, and at worst you'll be purged. Whereas liberal NGOs, unions and mass parties, there is some scope for working inside them if you can tolerate the bullshit and the cognitive dissonance. This said, I don't know which group you mean, so it's possible you've found an unusually open Leninist group. It's also sometimes possible to work *with* these groups in their united-front initiatives, without joining the group itself. That might be the best option if they're the only radical group locally and you share some of their politics but not all.

It's pretty easy to find anarchist critiques of Leninism, and Leninist critiques of anarchism online. Places like Anarchist Library and Anarchy Archives. Pretty much any anarchist writing from the 1920s-70s will have written something on Leninism/Marxism/state socialism. The main arguments for the Leninist critique of anarchism are Engels' "On Authority" and Lenin's "Left Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder". The general gist is, you can't organise modern society without authority and hierarchy.

In practice Leninism leads to a bureaucratic or military elite seizing power, and setting up a dictatorial but socially inclusive regime based on state control of the economy. This is obviously very different from even the most leftist/organisationalist varieties of anarchism, because it means state command power is maintained or even expanded; they have conscription, secret police, prisons, border guards, compulsory schooling; often people can't form groups or organisations outside the regime's formal structure of affiliated groups which have to have a particular structure and be politically loyal. Many in practice are even nastier, with gulags (concentration camps), torture, automatic jailings or killings of anarchists and other opponents, persecution of all forms of everyday deviance and free activity; Leninists will either distance themselves from these extreme examples (like North Korea, Cambodia, Stalin's Russia) because they're a different variety of Leninist, or they will deny or minimise the atrocities (the Kronstadt massacre is a good example). Some Leninists don't want to repeat the actually-existing Leninist state model, and there's anarchic strands in the early phases of Leninist revolutions and in Lenin's writings (State and Revolution calls for direct rule by workers' councils - something like Occupy as permanent governing model). At its most libertarian, Leninism fuses over into Marxist-humanism (e.g. socialisme ou barbarie, worker-communists, council communists, Luxemburgists) and autonomia/operaismo, and comes quite close to anarchism. But for every one Leninist who actually takes this position, there's another hundred who posture as libertarian to win recruits or ward-off the "evil commie" stereotype so they can do pretty much the same all over again. If you hang round these groups long enough you'll probably learn this the hard way, unless they manage to convince you first of the need for KGB torture camps to stop the evil counter-revolutionaries seizing power back.

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