Vladimir Lenin is still the archetype for Marxist revolutionaries

Vladimir Lenin: Russia’s Original Cold-Blooded Communist Revolutionary

By —— Bio and Archives--January 31, 2010

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Born for revolt, Vladimir Lenin founded the modern communist state in Russia. His revolutionary actions provoked the end of the tsar’s, adopting Marxism as the new secular religion from which the modern age would rise. Lenin was a furious man, galled by all traditional authority. He was incensed his university expelled him over a minor freshman incident, never letting him re-enroll.


This rage was increasingly directed at the government, the tsar, the church, and other conventional authorities. His incredibly destructive fury was informed and fueled by equally livid and indignant rants by Karl Marx. A brilliant man, Lenin’s reign of terror was only meant to overturn the ancien regime, but became an end in itself. Vladimir created an entire world-view riffed from Marxism called “Leninism,” subsequently used to erect tyrannies and orchestrate the deaths of hundreds of millions of innocent souls around the world. Vladimir Lenin is still the archetype for Marxist revolutionaries, and possibly the most influential man of the 20th century.


Vladimir Lenin was born in Simbirsk, Russia, next to the Volga River on April 22, 1870. His birth name was Vladimir “Volodya” Ilyich Ulyanov, although he chose “Lenin” as a pen name for the 10 million words he wrote during his life. His father Ilya Nikolayevich Ulyanov was a successful bureaucrat who became the chief of schools of Simbirsk, such high status conferring upon the family rights to claim hereditary nobility. His parent’s marriage was mostly unhappy, perhaps due to Ilya being away working so often. Lenin was an outstanding student, regularly taking home gold medals, and was especially zealous in his religious studies. All the Ulyanov children showed brilliance in school, but all equally revealed signs of rebellion, as well. Nonetheless, Lenin’s sister claimed their father never stated any revolutionary ideas to his children, according to Stefan T. Possony’s “Lenin, The Compulsive Revolutionary.”

Brother Sasha’s Execution

Lenin’s father Ilya Ulyanov died when he was fifteen. Lenin’s brother, Alexander “Sasha” Ulyanov was a very bright student of the physical sciences. He also dabbled in revolutionary politics, but went off the deep end when the family patriarch died. Alexander joined a group of revolutionaries associated with the Russian Will of the People program (Narodnaya Volya, aka Popular or People’s Party), which focused on social reform by toppling the tsar and giving the land to the people. Yet, it was not Marxism. Sasha’s group formed a branch called Terror Section of the Will of the People. They began to build bombs and plot the demise of Tsar Alexander III, and mustered to practice tossing dynamite, etc. The police were tipped off to the plot. Alexander was caught and jailed, given a trial, convicted and hung, writes Possony.

Lenin’s Banishment

Lenin enrolled in Kazan University in 1887, where his father had matriculated before him. But Sasha’s death haunted Volodya, and before long he too was engaging in revolutionary activities. On December 4th, 1887, Lenin joined several hundred other students to protest the university inspector. He and several other students were jailed, and after being identified as the brother of a terrorist, he was expelled a few days later, writes Louis Fischer, in “The Life of Lenin.” Vladimir was legally banished, then spent the next four years trying to get back into university, but was repeatedly rejected. So he spent his time kicking around, playing chess, hunting, reading voraciously, and growing increasingly bitter at a system that would permanently ruin his life for such a minor protest. It was in 1888-89 that Lenin began to seriously study Marx, according to Fischer.


As a lad, Lenin was a well-behaved but domineering boy who revealed a brilliant mind for studies yet showed no interest in politics. The social ostracizing of his family for his brother’s crime of terror, which helped lead to his own later expulsion from university, seems to have been the chief precipitating event for the devolution of his character. Richard Pipes in “Communism,” says of this event, “It made him into a fanatical revolutionary determined to destroy, root and branch, the existing social and political order.” Lenin therefore hated the ruling tsarism and the “bourgeoisie” class. He was not interested in communism to help the poor, which was exposed during the 1891 Volga famine. Here, Lenin alone amongst the socialist intelligentsia opposed raising aid for the starving masses. His argument being the death of the poor would destroy the old peasant economy and pave the way for the Marxist revolution that was imminent, anyway, writes Pipes.

Anger & Revenge

In fact, fury was the central characteristic of Lenin’s personality. Peter Struve, who labored with him during the revolutionary 1890’s, wrote that the single outstanding characteristic of Lenin’s personality was abiding hatred. Anger and a need for revenge fueled his decision-making his whole life. And his small-town origins added a certain xenophobia, opposition to higher social classes and decided racial dislike of outsiders, says Pipes. Writes Fischer, Lenin “...reveled in the hate which provided a vent for his inexhaustible reserves of bitterness and combativeness.”

An outstanding trait of the Ulyanov family was dedication and hard work. These characteristics were heightened in Lenin. Fischer describes him as… “a man with iron will, self-enslaving self-discipline, scorn for opponents and obstacles, the cold determination of a zealot, the drive of a fanatic, and the ability to browbeat weaker persons by his singleness of purpose, imposing intensity, impersonal approach, personal sacrifice, political astuteness, and complete conviction of the possession of the absolute truth.”

Lenin – Lover of Revolution, Not Friend of Poor

Lenin was, more than anything else, a lover of revolution, writing “Revolutions are the locomotive of history…Revolutions are the holiday of the oppressed and exploited,” according to Fischer. In this instance, his Marxist roots are completely exposed. Anything that would bring revolution was good, including violence. Here, the notion that the great communist revolutionaries were motivated by the plight of the poor, common man or peasants must be forcefully exposed as a lie. Lenin, like Stalin and Mao, really sought power to force his will upon the masses and therefore create a paradise of socialism. They all loathed the independence and intransigence of the peasants, and didn’t mind seeing them starve to death to make room for a new order. All three leaders caused peasant famines, as well. Marx himself considered peasants the “petit bourgeoisie” class, and therefore an enemy of industrial labor, writes Pipes.

Lenin’s Bloody Revolution Plans

According to the “Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression,” Lenin never had any peaceful scheme for Russia’s transformation, stating – “From the start Lenin expected, indeed wanted, civil war to crush all “class enemies”; and this war, principally against the peasants, continued with only short pauses until 1953. So much for the fable of ‘good Lenin/bad Stalin.’” Once again, as observed in all other communist dictators, we note in Lenin a Marxist refusal to see fellow human beings as anything except pieces on a chess board; without a soul, human rights, or any spiritual value. He once said, “Our program necessarily includes the propaganda of atheism.”


The Revolutionary Lawyer

Lenin was allowed back from exile and let sit for the external lawyer’s exam. He passed the test, moving to St Petersburg were he hid behind his attorney credentials as subterfuge while secretly involved in revolutionary activities. In 1896 Lenin was arrested for revolutionary acts and sent to Siberia. Three years later when released, Lenin moved to Germany to foment revolution via his pen. Here, he broke with Marx’s idea that the workers will naturally rise up and revolt upon their own accord, claiming “Sometimes - history needs a push.” He published “What is to be done,” which argues that workers can never start their own revolution. Instead, Lenin taught this must be seeded in by professional revolutionaries, writing “that the organisation must consist chiefly of persons engaged in revolutionary activities as a profession.” By a matter of sheer necessity, these professional revolutionaries would all come from the intellectual class. This became the root idea of Bolshevikism, according to Pipes. Established in Western Europe, Lenin then spent almost 2 decades abroad, being absent from 1900-1917, visiting only once during the 1905 revolution.

World War I

When World War I broke out, Lenin used the violence as an excuse to introduce his own revolutionary socialist ideas into the mix. Vladimir claimed any international aggressions must be turned into an internal Russian war between the classes, with the underclass gunning for their enslaving masters. While Lenin’s Marxist advocacy was not acted upon, he assumed leadership of Russia’s far left around this time, later to become the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, or CPSU. Russia then entered the war as an ally to Britain and France against Germany. Discontent began to rage in Russia as military casualties to German forces, loss of assets, and rumor-mongering being circulated accusing the Tsar’s Empress, German by origin, of treasonous plotting with the German government. By 1916, the atmosphere was ripe for internal conflict, states Pipes.

Russian Civil War

The 1917 Russian Revolution was precipitated by strong criticisms by the Duma legislature against the war leadership of Tsar Nicholas, who characteristically refused to defend his conduct. The tinder box burst aflame in a Petrograd (aka St Petersburg) garrison mutiny, where older reserves were outraged to learn they were being called back to duty. The generals of the army, terrified by the potential for nationwide uprising, advised the Tsar to abdicate, which he did on March 15th, with a sense of patriotic duty. Power was then assumed by the Duma, while a separate council of socialist intellectuals convened in Petrograd to plan on how to take advantage of the opportunity, according to Pipes.

Soviet Overseers

The socialists declared themselves a “soviet” (ie, workers and soldiers) council of deputies. Unasked, they offered themselves as watchdogs of what they called the Duma “bourgeoisie” Provisional Government. The soviets, really a group of socialist intellectuals, immediately began undermining the temporary government and emasculating army leadership, even while Russia was still fighting WWI. Peasants demanding land reform, and others upset a promised constitutional republican congress was repeatedly put off, began to express anger, as the country was slipping towards anarchy. This gave Lenin the opening he’d been awaiting for decades, writes Pipes.

The Sealed Train

Back in Germany, Lenin made plans to return to Russia, and asked the German government if they would assist him. The German embassy in Switzerland offered Vladimir $10,000,000 to help restart the communist party back in Russia, and a safe passage through Germany on his return. In 1917, Lenin boarded a German train in a sealed car, for his trip back to Russia. He meant to foment crisis, and try to take control of the government, with a king’s ransom of ten million dollars. This story, not widely known for decades, is detailed in Michael Pearson’s fascinating book, “The Sealed Train.” This odd tale is introduced here by Pearson, “IN MARCH, 1917, Lenin was living in Zürich in poverty, the exiled head of a small extremist revolutionary party that had relatively little following even within Russia. Eight months later, he assumed the rule of 160,000,000 people occupying one-sixth of the inhabited surface of the world.”

Coup D’etat

Lenin’s Bolshevik group was small, but extremely well-organized. Their desire for a violent overthrow of the government was opposed by most leftists, such as the much larger Socialist-Revolutionaries. But Lenin was not going to let this opportunity pass, and on November 7th launched his coup, which worked almost flawlessly across the country, and with precious little bloodshed. While the other socialists believed the Bolshevik government could not last, the small group, funded by outside sources, hiding behind democratic slogans, spent the next 74 years in power, with shockingly murderous results, according to Pipes. Overall, the civil war lasted from 1917 till 1922, and ten million were killed, mostly civilians, according to Clarence B. Carter’s “Basic Communism: It’s Rise, Spread and Debacle in the 20th Century.”


Untrained Leaders Appointed Over Russia

Of the leading Bolsheviks, none had the slightest outside leadership experience of any kind, or history of administering any organizations. Incredibly, neither had any ever business experience. Yet this did not stop them from assuming posts of national leadership, or nationalizing all businesses, says Pipes. Or, as Carson puts it, “The Bolsheviks knew no more about making an economy work than they did about rearranging the orbits of the heavenly bodies.” Given their intellectual background and doctrinaire Marxist ideology, this group believed all they needed to successively lead a country was a set of untested socialist theories stuck in their back pockets. There was no free speech in the new state. Lenin said, “The press should be not only a collective propagandist and a collective agitator, but also a collective organizer of the masses.” He added, “He who now talks about the “freedom of the press” goes backward, and halts our headlong course towards Socialism.”

Economic Catastrophe

Lenin once said, “Any cook should be able to run the country.” This well illustrates the ignorant presumptuous and inexperienced condescension of these Marxist revolutionaries, who considered real-world capitalist knowledge or experience a simplistic, vulgar joke. Yet, after the civil war, in virtually every undertaking, the Bolshevik regime experienced an unmitigated chain of failure in every conceivable undertaking, in all sectors of government, and on each imposition of public policy. For example, by 1921 economic productivity had fallen to less than 20% of the 1913 level. Unfortunately, since party doctrine stressed Marxist “scientific” perfection, the government was loathe to admit any errors, as it would undermine their overall theory of leadership, which then merely reinforced failed doctrines, says Pipes.

A Three-Year Plan

In just three years, the Marxists ruined what had been a functioning economy. A main reason for this was the confiscation of land, factories, banks and all other concerns from those who knew how to run them, for a blind transfer to utterly unqualified Party appointees. The economy was therefore taken over by a group of inexperienced, know-nothing socialist functionaries. Workers took over factories then failed to manufacture anything (reminiscent of Mao replacing “bourgeoisie surgeons” with the hospital janitorial staff, during the Cultural Revolution). Big farms went to peasants who understood nothing about large scale agriculture, and so these undertakings tanked as well. Money and other liquid assets were confiscated as fiat money was printed, causing spiraling inflation, debasing the currency. Lenin stated, “The way to crush the bourgeoisie is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation.” Vladimir also claimed, “The best way to destroy the capitalist system is to debauch the currency.” And, when the economy went off a cliff, the government used the army for labor, and then turned the labor force into a wing of the army.

But Lenin did eventually blink, and decided to bring back some capitalism to resurrect the moribund economy in 1921. This could not stop the communist-caused famine, which Lenin blamed on the land-owning Kulaks. He resisted helping the starving masses, wherein 5 million peasants died, writes Carson. In the beginning of Lenin’s reign, he mouthed anarchic slogans encouraging the peasants to appropriate land, and for workers to overtake factories and generally divide the spoils of revolution amongst one another. But Lenin only did this to gain support of the people, and was determined to reverse course later. This became apparent when he confiscated all land. By 1924, the year Lenin died, the Russian border states had been conquered and merged with Soviet Russia to form the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or U.S.S.R.


Tiny Party Needs Terror

According to Heller and Nekrich’s “Utopia in Power: The History of the Soviet Union from 1917 to the Present,” “From the first days of the regime, dictatorship was a panacea for all problems, be they political, economic or social.” In fact, Lenin believed that his ideal socialist society could only be augured-in by mass terror. One of the practical results of being a tiny minority controlling party is the need for muscle. The Bolshevik’s officially represented subgroup, ie the “industrial workers,”only claimed 2% of the nation’s population, and of this, only 5% of these claimed Bolshevik membership. So, the Party had to establish a tyranny just to retain power. Also, this put most other groups into the status of “Party enemy,” justifying much future bloodshed. Interestingly, the reality of a takeover by a small group of radical and violent socialist revolutionaries, resulting in permanent tyranny, repeated itself in virtually every subsequent communist “people’s revolution” worldwide, writes Pipes.

Lenin, the brilliantly subversive mind he was, realized there was no other choice for his Bolsheviks, but to rule Russia via tyranny, and he embraced this fact. He stated, “It is true that liberty is precious; so precious that it must be carefully rationed.” Lenin defined dictatorship as, “power that is limited by nothing, no laws, that is restrained by absolutely no rules, that rests directly on coercion,” states Pipes. Lenin believed in the use of unlimited power to achieve his revolutionary goals, where some would be completely annihilated to remove their resistance and also provide a lesson for others. He claimed morality was for the birds, claiming, “There are no morals in politics; there is only expedience. A scoundrel may be of use to us just because he is a scoundrel.”

Cheka Secret Police

For these purposes, Lenin organized the Cheka secret police to carry out his will, and was directly under his control. The secret police units covered the entirety of Russia, and were eventually given unlimited powers, up to delivering death on the spot, like ancient Roman lictors. Hostages from the elites were also taken for leverage. Also, a new weapon of mass terror was invented – the concentration camp, only later perfected by Hitler, according to Heller and Nekrich.

Not Justice, But Revolution

The head of the Cheka, Feliz Dzerzhinsky, described his thoughts on justice, “Do not believe that I seek revolutionary forms of justice. We don’t need justice at this point…I propose, I demand, the organization of revolutionary annihilation against all active counterrevolutionaries.” The Cheka’s purpose was simply to “liquidate,” ie physically remove or destroy all opposition to Lenin’s Bolshevik revolutionary rule. So, rival political parties were initially outlawed, such as the Constitutional Democrat “Kadets,” then later wiped out.

Police “Infallibility”

While the Cheka was officially disbanded in 1922, every succeeding organization carried the same mandate, such as the KGB. No one knows the full toll, but the Cheka took on “class enemies”, a category that included most resident Russians. The Cheka held extra-legal trials, and also sent persons to concentration camps, or simply shot those considered enemies of the state, according to Carson. Hundreds of thousands or millions may have been liquidated in a few short years. And yet, the Cheka had been invested with total protection from any prosecution or liability, by Lenin, for their acts. This conferred on them an almost papal “infallibility,” write Heller and Nekrich. This matches the infallibility attached to Lenin by later Russian generations of Marxists.


Lenin was infirm for some time before he died. On May 25-26th, 1922 he suffered a stroke, which paralyzed his right side and deprived him of powers of speech. Feeling better by October 2, he began working again but suffered another near-fatal stroke on December 13th. Again, on March 9, 1923, he suffered yet another stroke that turned him into a living corpse. Almost a year later Lenin died, aged 54. Unfortunately, in his declining years he saw big defects in the Communist Party, and some of the leaders, like Stalin, but was powerless to effect meaningful change.

Lenin was only in power for seven years, from late 1917 to 1924, and even then his last few years we spent in extremely sickened conditions. His strong leadership lasted about half a decade. Yet, we owe to Lenin the model of nearly all subsequent communist revolutions. His masterful interpretation of Marx produced ideas and practice regarding power, revolution, leadership, economics and terror which were all aped by subsequent Marxist dictators. Lenin was not as enamored by murder as Stalin or Mao, but still established the model for how communist states must establish a reign of terror to survive. For all this, Vladimir Lenin must never be forgotten.


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Kelly OConnell -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Kelly O’Connell is an author and attorney. He was born on the West Coast, raised in Las Vegas, and matriculated from the University of Oregon. After laboring for the Reformed Church in Galway, Ireland, he returned to America and attended law school in Virginia, where he earned a JD and a Master’s degree in Government. He spent a stint working as a researcher and writer of academic articles at a Miami law school, focusing on ancient law and society. He has also been employed as a university Speech & Debate professor. He then returned West and worked as an assistant district attorney. Kelly is now is a private practitioner with a small law practice in New Mexico.

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