Many observing the centennial of the Russian Revolution focus on the leader of the uprising, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin).
Russian president, Vladimir Putin, for instance, who admires the ruthless autocrat, has encouraged people to wait on line for hours to view Lenin’s embalmed body in the Moscow mausoleum.
There has been much hagiography, mostly notably Slavoj Žižek’s "Lenin 2017."
Žižek, a senior researcher at the Institute for Sociology and Philosophy at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia and screenwriter of the documentary, "The Pervert’s Guide of Ideology," views Lenin as a model for budding revolutionaries. He defends terror and violence calling for new political parties to be organized on Leninist principles.
To understand this ruthless figure, I recommend Victor Sebestyen’s recently published "Lenin: The Man, the Dictator, the Master of Terror."
Relying on newly released papers, Sebestyen writes that Lenin is the godfather of "post truth politics." In his quest for power "the ends justified the means." He "promised people anything and everything" and "lied unashamedly."
Lenin had no interest in the common good, family, or friendship. The only thing that mattered was the annihilation of perceived enemies of the state, "We would be deceiving both ourselves and the people if we concealed from the masses the necessity of a desperate, bloody war of extermination, as the immediate task of the coming revolutionary action."
As a young radical, Lenin proclaimed "I fell in love with Marx and Engels . . . literally in love." And while he believed that Marxist doctrines were scientific and irrefutable, he was flexible and would justify any act to achieve a communist state. Morality was merely "what serves to destroy the old exploiting society and to unite all the working people around the proletariat which is building up a new communist society." He also believed, "Everything that is done in the interests of the proletarian cause is honest."
Hence, Sebestyen notes, Lenin “adapted the ideas to Russian conditions in ways Marx would never have imagined. . . . Lenin transformed a set of European ideas into a very Russian creation. His version of Marxism—its intolerance, rigidity, violence and cruelty—were forged from Lenin’s experience as a nineteenth-century Russian. Lenin’s Bolshevism had deep Russian roots.
As for religion, Lenin held it "insulted a rational person’s intelligence." Religion, he wrote, "is a sort of spiritual booze in which the slaves of capital drown their human image, their demand for a life more or less worthy of men."
In a letter to the Russian communist playwright, Maxim Gorky, he declared, "Any religious idea, any idea of God at all, even any flirtation with a God, is the most inexpressible foulness, a dangerous foulness."
Despising organized religions, shortly after he assumed power in Russia, Lenin began a campaign to crush Christianity.
Communist youth were ordered to march through streets carrying effigies of God and the holy family. Kids dressed as priests, defiled relics and offered to marry couples for a price. They ransacked churches singing "Down with the priests, down with the monks. We will climb to heaven and chase away the gods."
In 1921, Lenin used the government-induced famine to advance his campaign against the Orthodox Church and to seize its property and valuables. It was his hope that this reign of terror would subdue resistance from the clergy, by inflicting "such brutality that they will not forget it for decades to come."
Orthodox priests who resisted were tortured and accused of counter-revolutionary conspiracies. Thousands were murdered or sent to prison for life.
What sort of man could be the instigator of such violence and cruelty?
Sebestyen argues that Lenin "was not a monster, a sadist or vicious." Nor was he vain. Unlike, Joseph Stalin, Lenin did not savor the death of enemies. On the other hand, Lenin "never showed generosity to a defeated opponent or performed a humanitarian act unless it was politically expedient.”
His disciples realized he was not a pleasant person. He had no friends. Followers had to "bend to his will" or be banished from the revolutionary movement.
He was described as "petulant,": "ill-tempered," "irascible," "merciless," "coldly calculating," "domineering," "abusive," and "vicious."
The leftist American journalist, John Reed, described Lenin as "unimpressive . . . a leader purely by virtue of intellect, colourless, humourless, uncompromising and detached, without picturesque idiosyncrasies — but with power of explaining ideas in simple terms."
Following several strokes, Lenin died at age 53 on Jan. 21, 1924. In his less than six years in power, he managed to lay the foundation of a totalitarian state based on the simple rule that "the slightest breach of discipline must be punished severely, sternly, ruthlessly."
Lenin’s legacy, Sebestyen concludes, was a "system of the gulag and the secret police" that Stalin would take "to horrifying new heights."
George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact," and "Christian Persecutions in the Middle East: A 21st Century Tragedy." He is chairman of Aid to the Church in Need-USA. Mr. Marlin also writes for TheCatholicThing.org and the Long Island Business News. To read more George J. Marlin — Click Here Now.
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