Vanguardism is the political theory advocating the presence of an organization (usually a vanguard party) having a leading role in a revolutionary movement, with the goal of steering it in a direction consistent with its ideology.

More generally, vanguardism may refer to cooperation between avant-garde individuals advancing in any field. Innovative writers and artists are often described as being in the vanguard in development of new forms and styles of art.

Often, following the overthrow of the previous order, vanguardist organizations will attempt to seize state power and use it in order to achieve its goals of reshaping society. The classic historical example of this is the Bolshevik-led October Revolution.

Vanguardism continues to be used as a political strategy by Leninist parties of just about all varieties -- Trotskyist, Stalinist and Maoist. Doing so, they claim to fulfill the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat, by turning from a revolutionary organization into a form of bureaucracy that dissolves when the people are sufficiently empowered to rule themselves.

Most anarchists and radical libertarians reject vanguardism as inherently authoritarian, although the practices of some anarchist groups have been criticized by their peers for constituting vanguardism of the intellectual, if not organizational, variety.

See also: spontaneism.

Notable Groups

External links

Further reading


  • Burger, Peter. Theory of the Avant-Garde. Theory & History of Literature Series. 135 pages. University of Minnesota Press, February 1, 1984. ISBN 0-8166-1068-1.
  • Forster, Merlin H. and K. David Jackson, compilers. Vanguardism in Latin American Literature : An Annotated Bibliographic Guide. Bibliographies and Indexes in World Literature Series. 232 pages. Greenwood Press, May 23, 1990. ISBN 0-313-24861-3.



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