In this seminal theoretical work, published in 1902, Lenin established the scientific foundations of the revolutionary movement. Opposing the Russian Economists, who were generally indifferent to questions of theory, Lenin argued that only a party that is guided by the most advanced revolutionary theory will be able to provide the working class with revolutionary leadership.
Lenin insists that the working class movement on its own cannot develop socialist consciousness. He emphasizes the need for the party to bring socialist consciousness into the working class “from without”: Since there can be no talk of an independent ideology formulated by the working masses themselves in the process of their movement, the only choice is – either bourgeois or socialist ideology. There is no middle course (for mankind has not created a ‘third’s ideology, and, moreover, in a society torn by class antagonisms there can never be a non-class or above-class ideology). Hence, to belittle the socialist ideology in any way, to turn aside from it in the slightest degree means to strengthen bourgeois ideology … Hence, our task, the task of Social-Democracy, is to combat spontaneity, to divert the working class from this spontaneous, trade unionist striving to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie, and to bring it under the wing of revolutionary Social-Democracy.