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“”His goal is to save the world; his method is to blow it up.
Though he was still in exile in Switzerland when the monarchy was overthrown, Lenin arrived to take command of the second and more important phase of the 1917 Russian Revolution. Although widely believed to have given the order to kill the tsar and his family to keep them out of the hands of anti-communist forces, current evidence holds that he had no action in it beyond approving of the executions after they had taken place.
Notwithstanding his world history-making role, Lenin was punished in death by having his funeral requests denied and his wax-filled corpse put on eternal display
so we can rebuild him once we have the technology in Moscow.
Paint the town red
Lenin, as the first person to put Karl Marx's ideas into practice on a national scale, is especially revered among the hard-left, despite founding the SS-like Cheka (secret police), militarizing labor at the cost of thousands of people being displaced, bringing about the Red Terror and brutally crushing anarchist uprisings.
Further departing from Marx, Lenin dropped the ideal of direct democracy. He also started nationalizing major companies while granting workers more autonomy and benefits on behalf of the government. However, Marx's idea was to let workers run the industries themselves and let the socialist state "whither away". A bunch of bitter monarchists and peasants (not together, of course) tried to overthrow Lenin and his Bolshevik Party, which led to the Russian Civil War and the harsh policies of War Communism. Such policies led to the total control of the economy and government by one party, which could not be accused of corruption (for fear of execution or imprisonment). The differences between Marxism and Leninism are significant indeed. Stalin later cranked these up to 11, especially with the cult of personality Stalin constructed around Lenin (and eventually around himself). Lenin was adamant that a personality cult should not be constructed around him due to Marxist doctrine which dictates that classes, not "Great Men" led history.
Still, Lenin did manage to accomplish several genuinely good things. He was the man who took Russia out of World War I (and brought it into the internecine Russian Civil War). Women were given voting rights and allowed to attend university as were Jews, effectively enabling Ayn Rand to go to university and dedicate the rest of her life to bringing about the fall of communism, homosexuality was legalized and the Soviet government began to implement universal education projects (that, "coincidentally", were also convenient places to spread pro-Soviet propaganda).
While Leninism usually refers to Lenin's Bolshevik revolutionary model, Marxism-Leninism is the ideological/political platform developed by Stalin during his ascendency and rule. Marxist-Leninism, with its Stalinist tweaking, became the most influential form of Marxism, spread to the communist parties of the world through the Third International.
Lenin is also widely credited with articulating one of the first strong critiques of imperialism. However, note that his theorization bears a remarkable similarity to that in an earlier work by the liberal J.A. Hobson.
Lenin found fault with everybody likely to succeed him, including the slightly less insane Leon Trotsky, but he explicitly said that Josef Stalin should not be considered, ironically citing brutality. Lenin may also be the first guy to get mad about a dude emailing his wife. (He cc'ed comrades K. & Z. as well.) A trailblazer in so many ways.
If Lenin had lived a little longer, the rumor is he was going to expel Stalin from the party. Frankly nothing would have changed. Lenin's right hand man would have ruled in exactly the same way as Stalin if given the chance. Trotsky approved of all the counter-revolutionary policies of Lenin: one-man government, state control of unions and councils, the Cheka, denying Soviet colonies the right to secede, banning freedom of the press and freedom of speech. The apparatus set up by the Bolsheviks meant that a Stalin was likely sooner or later.
After Lenin's death, Stalin liked to portray himself as his best friend and chosen ruler, although Lenin himself expressed on his death bed not to let Comrade Stalin take control. Stalin, however, managed to oust the competition. Later Trotsky mysteriously turned up with an ice pick in the back of his head after fleeing to Mexico.
Amaedeo Bordiga called Stalin the gravedigger of the revolution to his face while visiting Moscow.
Conservatives in the United States are extremely fond of quoting Lenin, either to tie his words to the tactics of their opponents or to gloat how smart their own tactics are (by saying they come from Lenin):
"You know, Putin believes in the old Lenin adage that you probe with bayonets, when you find mush you push, when you find steel you stop. Under Obama and Clinton, we found a lot of mush, over the last few years." − Gov. Scott Walker (WI)
"Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that's my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment." − Steve Bannon
Many non-conservatives find this
extremely puzzling completely understandable.
He was not the Walrus.Do You Believe That?
- Seriously. However, Stalin recriminalized it.
- "Strictly personal." Copies to Kamanac and Zionviev.
- See the Wikipedia article on Lenin's Testament.
- Chuck McCutcheon and David Mark, "Probe with bayonets': Why so many politicos are cribbing from Lenin", CS Monitor 17 August 2015.
- Radosh, Ronald, "Steve Bannon, Trump's Top Guy, Told Me He Was a 'Leninist'", Daily Beast (22 August 2016, 1:00 AM ET).