The idea that Marxist revolution shall spontaneously arise from the atomized members of the working class---or the trade unions---is sheer bunk. A vanguard is necessary to lead the revolution. To repudiate the idea of a revolutionary party is to repudiate the idea of revolution.
: I agree. Nikolai Bukharin rightly pointed out that if a class were inwardly unified, the formation of a party would be superfluous. My concern is that Lenin's concept of party organization (though it presupposes the fact - the actuality - of the revolution) leads to the eventual subordination of the proletarian movement to the central committee. As Rosa Luxemburg reminded us in 1904:
Let us speak plainly. Historically, the errors committed by a truly revolutionary movement are infinitely more fruitful than the infallibility of the cleverest Central Committee.
(Leninism or Marxism, p. 108, The University of Michigan Press, 1976)
Please let me make it plain that I am NOT advocating the methods employed by Lenin. I live in America in 1999---not Tsarist Russia in 1905!
No party in America requires the absolute secrecy that he did.
No party in America requires the absolute discipline that he did.
This is not a police state where one member's loose tongue gets 50 people killed.
In short, conditions are far superior now, in this country, for the organization of a mass working class party then they were in Tsarist Russia.
All I was saying was---simply, I thought: To repudiate the idea of a revolutionary party is to repudiate the idea of revolution.
I believe Engels quote substantiates that.
BTW, Luxemburg also said, from the same piece:
We must not forget that the revolution which will soon break out in Russia is not a proletarian but a bourgeois revolution, which will greatly change the conditions of the Social Democratic struggle.
('Organizational Questions of Russian Social Democracy' [as she titled the article], Selected Political Writings , Monthly Review Press 1968, p. 302.)
And, in another article that criticizes Lenin:
Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently.
('The Russian Revolution' , Rosa Luxemburg Speaks Pathfinder 1970, p. 389.)
Which libertarians would agree makes for a lovely bumpersticker! But Luxemburg's quest for populist consensus neglects the paramount issue freedom to or freedom from:
And the abolition of [wage labor] is called by the bourgeois, abolition of individuality and freedom! And rightly so. The abolition of bourgeois individuality, bourgeois independence, and bourgeois freedom is undoubtably aimed at.
(Marx & Engels, The Communist Manifesto , International 1948, p. 24.)
Now, to answer your title question, Is centralization necessary?
Only a party that will assume leadership once the people are prepared to claim their birthright is necessary.
I favor a democratic vanguard prepared to assume job rotation within its ranks---and, after the working class is prepared to run their state, outside its ranks.
Or, to put it another way, I was praising Lenin's general interpretations of Marxism, not his <>specific actions within the context of Tsarist Russia.