Vanguard party
Overview
 
A vanguard party is a political party
Political party
A political party is a political organization that typically seeks to influence government policy, usually by nominating their own candidates and trying to seat them in political office. Parties participate in electoral campaigns, educational outreach or protest actions...

 at the forefront of a mass action, movement, or revolution. The idea of a vanguard party has its origins in the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

 and Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels was a German industrialist, social scientist, author, political theorist, philosopher, and father of Marxist theory, alongside Karl Marx. In 1845 he published The Condition of the Working Class in England, based on personal observations and research...

. The concept is most well known for being put into practice by the Bolshevik Party in Russia.
In the Chapter II: Proletarians and Communists of the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels outline the role of a communist party as a proletarian vanguard party:
The Communists, therefore, are on the one hand practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the lines of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.
The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all other proletarian parties: Formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat.


As he surveyed the European milieu in the late 1890s, Lenin found several problems with the Marxism of his day.
Encyclopedia
A vanguard party is a political party
Political party
A political party is a political organization that typically seeks to influence government policy, usually by nominating their own candidates and trying to seat them in political office. Parties participate in electoral campaigns, educational outreach or protest actions...

 at the forefront of a mass action, movement, or revolution. The idea of a vanguard party has its origins in the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

 and Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels was a German industrialist, social scientist, author, political theorist, philosopher, and father of Marxist theory, alongside Karl Marx. In 1845 he published The Condition of the Working Class in England, based on personal observations and research...

. The concept is most well known for being put into practice by the Bolshevik Party in Russia.

Marx and Engels

In the Chapter II: Proletarians and Communists of the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels outline the role of a communist party as a proletarian vanguard party:
The Communists, therefore, are on the one hand practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the lines of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.
The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all other proletarian parties: Formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat.


Russia

As he surveyed the European milieu in the late 1890s, Lenin found several problems with the Marxism of his day. Contrary to what Marx had predicted, capitalism had strengthened itself over the last third of the 19th century. The working class in Western Europe had become more impoverished and burdened rather than becoming the forward thinking people Marx expected. Hence, the workers and their unions, although continuing to press for better wages and working conditions, failed to develop the revolutionary class consciousness that Marx had expected. Lenin also argued that the division of labor in capitalist society prevented the emergence of proletarian class consciousness. Lenin wrote that because workers had to labor ten or twelve hours each workday in a factory, they had no time to learn the complexities of Marxist theory. Finally, in trying to effect revolution in autocratic Russia, Lenin also faced the problem of a regime that had outlawed almost all political activities. Although the autocracy
Autocracy
An autocracy is a form of government in which one person is the supreme power within the state. It is derived from the Greek : and , and may be translated as "one who rules by himself". It is distinct from oligarchy and democracy...

 could not enforce a ban on political ideas, until 1905—when the tsar agreed to the formation of a national duma
Duma
A Duma is any of various representative assemblies in modern Russia and Russian history. The State Duma in the Russian Empire and Russian Federation corresponds to the lower house of the parliament. Simply it is a form of Russian governmental institution, that was formed during the reign of the...

—the tsarist police suppressed all groups seeking political change, including those with a democratic program.

Based on his observations, Lenin argued that an organisation was necessary to cohere the most class conscious section of the working class. In the midst of a rising period of class struggle, Lenin wrote in What Is to Be Done (1902), a polemic directed against the "economist" trend of socialism that believed the raising of economic demands alone was sufficient for the development of revolutionary consciousness in the working class, that the "history of all countries bears out the fact that through their own powers alone, the working class can develop only a trade-union consciousness." That is, history had demonstrated that under their reformist trade union leadership, the working class could engage in local, spontaneous rebellions to improve its position within the capitalist system but revolutionary consciousness developed unevenly. Optimistic about the proletariat's ability to acquire class consciousness, Lenin argued that the only missing component for escalating the class struggle was an organisation that could relate to the radicalism of the most militant section - or vanguard - of the working class with the aim of winning wider layers of workers away from their reformist leadership.

It is often believed that Lenin thought the bearers of class consciousness were common intellectuals who made it their vocation to both conspire against the capitalist system, educate the public in revolutionary theory, and prepare the workers for the proletarian revolution
Proletarian revolution
A proletarian revolution is a social and/or political revolution in which the working class attempts to overthrow the bourgeoisie. Proletarian revolutions are generally advocated by socialists, communists, and most anarchists....

 and the dictatorship of the proletariat
Dictatorship of the proletariat
In Marxist socio-political thought, the dictatorship of the proletariat refers to a socialist state in which the proletariat, or the working class, have control of political power. The term, coined by Joseph Weydemeyer, was adopted by the founders of Marxism, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, in the...

 that would follow. However, he distinguished himself from his Menshevik rivals by a hostility towards the bourgeois intelligentsia and was routinely attacked for placing too much trust in the ability of the working class to transform society through its own struggles.

Like other political organizations seeking change in Russia, Lenin's organization had to use conspiratorial methods and operate underground. In the context of Tsarist repression, Lenin argued for the necessity of confining membership in his organization to those who were professionally trained in the art of combating the secret police. However, the Bolshevik Party was at its core defined by its organisational flexibility, adopting a variety of organisational forms to adapt to changing political situations. After the 1905 revolution, Lenin argued for the Bolshevik Party to "open its gates" to a militant and rapidly radicalising working class in order to transform itself into a mass party with genuine roots in the working class movement.

The Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Communist Party of the Soviet Union
The Communist Party of the Soviet Union was the only legal, ruling political party in the Soviet Union and one of the largest communist organizations in the world...

 continued to regard itself as the institutionalization of Marxist-Leninist consciousness in the Soviet Union, and therein lay the justification for the controls it exercised over Soviet society. Article 6 of the 1977 Soviet Constitution refers to the party as the "leading and guiding force of Soviet society and the nucleus of its political system, of all state organizations and public organizations." The party, precisely because it was the bearer of Marxist-Leninist ideology, determined the general development of society, directed domestic and foreign policy, and "imparts a planned, systematic, and theoretically substantiated character" to the struggle of the Soviet people for the victory of communism.

However, the exact role of the vanguard party as outlined by Lenin is disputed by the modern communist movement. Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky , born Lev Davidovich Bronshtein, was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and theorist, Soviet politician, and the founder and first leader of the Red Army....

, a contemporary of Lenin, further established the idea of a vanguard party through the creation of the Fourth International
Fourth International
The Fourth International is the communist international organisation consisting of followers of Leon Trotsky , with the declared dedicated goal of helping the working class bring about socialism...

. Trotsky, a believer in the worldwide permanent revolution
Permanent Revolution
Permanent revolution is a term within Marxist theory, established in usage by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels by at least 1850 but which has since become most closely associated with Leon Trotsky. The use of the term by different theorists is not identical...

, thought that a vanguard party must be an international body that organised the most militant section of the working class in several countries. While the Fourth International faded from the public eye after Trotsky's death, various efforts have been made to revive it, or some sort of resembling international vanguard party.

Non-Marxist uses

Although Lenin developed the term and it is used to describe Marxist Leninist parties, the term is also sometimes used for some Islamist parties. Islamist writers Abul Ala Maududi
Abul Ala Maududi
Syed Abul A'ala Maududi , also known as Molana or Shaikh Syed Abul A'ala Mawdudi, was a Sunni Pakistani journalist, theologian, Muslim revivalist leader and political philosopher, and a major 20th century Islamist thinker. He was also a prominent political figure in Pakistan and was the first...

 and Sayyid Qutb
Sayyid Qutb
Sayyid Qutb was an Egyptian author, educator, Islamist theorist, poet, and the leading member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s and '60s....

 both urged the formation of an Islamic vanguard to restore Islamic society. Qutb talked of an Islamist vanguard in his book Ma'alim fi al-Tariq (Milestones) and Maududi formed an Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami
Jamaat-e-Islami
This article is about Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan. For other organizations of similar name see Jamaat-e-Islami The Jamaat-e-Islami , is a Pro-Muslim political party in Pakistan...

 whose goal was to establish an ideological state, administered for God solely by Muslims "whose whole life is devoted to the observance and enforcement" of Islamic law. The party members formed an elite group (called arkan) with "affiliates" (mutaffiq) and then "sympathisers" (hamdard) beneath them. Another elite or vanguard Islamist party is Hizb ut-Tahrir
Hizb ut-Tahrir
Hizb ut-Tahrir is an international Sunni. pan-Islamic political organisation but keeps it open for all including shias,some of its beliefs are against sunni school of thought, whose goal is for all Muslim countries to unify as an Islamic state or caliphate ruled by Islamic law and with a caliph...

, which seeks to take power for a pan-Islamic state not by a vanguard-led armed struggle, but by a Coup d'état
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

. The party seeks to obtains "support from army generals, leaders, and other influential figures or bodies to facilitate the change of the government."
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