The project for socialism set out in The State and Revolution and "Can the Bolsheviks Retain State Power?" (both written in August/September 1917) was, by any standards, extraordinary. It was a project that sought to eliminate the relations of power, of domination and subordination, that had always characterized society. Socialism was identified with self-government. All the powers hitherto arrogated to the state were to be reclaimed by the people in arms. The armed assemblies of the popular masses were to debate and decide upon public business (the legislative function); and they executed punishments and provided for their own defense (the coercive functions of the police and army). There were to be no more special powers and the complex checks and balances that had characterized the liberal constitutions and made parliaments into the ineffectual "talking shops" were to be swept away. They were now irrelevant and harmful, for their whole point and purpose had been to construct so many bulwarks and obstacles to the power of the people. They comprised the web of mediations through which popular power was purposely emasculated. Now, according to the Bolshevik programme, the power of the people was to be direct, immediate and unrestricted. It was meant to be a clarion call to the people of the whole world to recover their potency as makers of their own politics and as participants in a transformed democracy.-From Neil Hardings essay "The Marxist-Leninist Detour" in Dunn (ed.) Democracy: The Unfinished Journey. (Cambridge UP: 1992).
This ideal of a completely self-governing society free from all forms of domination is more relevant today than ever. That this was a vision Lenin shared is clear to anyone who has read State and Revolution. It is often claimed that there is no room for democracy in Marxist thought, but I can't think of a more radically and uncompromisingly democratic political vision in human history. No constraints on the power of the people are countenanced: not the allegedly sacred "natural right to property", not the needs or interests of dominant groups (whether their dominance is based on gender, race, etc.), not the toxic forces of militarism /nationalism. It is a thoroughly internationalist vision in which the ultimate goal is the complete and full liberation of all human beings.
Of course, it's a complex and important question for socialists why the promise of early years of the Soviet experiment was ultimately extinguished by counter-revolution from within. Internationally and internally isolated, devastated by civil war and famine, the promise of the early days of the revolution was lost. The ideas of workers control and radical democracy fell by the wayside. Soon enough, workers were being disciplined and exploited. It is in this context that Stalin rises to power, who has the distinction of having murdered more Marxists and revolutionaries than the Tsar ever did. The top-down authoritarianism that marked the rest of the years that the Soviet empire existed was anything but socialist. But this oppressive, ossified bureaucratization doesn't tarnish the early vision that united the oppressed and exploited of Russia in rising up against the ravages of capitalism and war. That basic emancipatory vision is more valid today than ever.