Was Lenin a lying manoeuvrer? Were the Bolsheviks a cult led by an all-knowing leader and staffed by narrow-minded minions? Lars T Lih joins in the debate over Tony Cliff’s biography and debunks some myths held by both left and right
Although not without interest on its own terms, as history, this debate is typical of the morass of confusion the old left flounders in ad infinitum. Here the attempt to rescue Lenin from the obvious critique of his movement and tactics is at odds with the insights, achieved against the odds, that Lenin was a Bolshevik authoritarian, etc…
The old left cannot learn because every critique is the object of endless refutation. I think a counter case for Lenin is fine, as far as it goes, but the historical record is pretty clear, and the left should simply say goodbye to Leninism. Period. We have forgotten, been made to forget, that Lenin completely obliterated the real legacy of Marx/Engels, because he sensed, not without reason, that the Second Internationale wasn’t a winner, the more so after the party fostered by Marx voted the war credits in the First World War. That act so stunned the left at the time that it in effect died, as figures such as Lenin changed course. This is totally lost on the students of Marx/Lenin now. Lenin was right, in a way: the proletariat was a failure, so why not create an elitist Blanquism disguised behind Marxist principles, and proletarian fronts controlled now in reality by the Party elites? It is this finesse Marxists are simply unable to grasp, as they continue the Lenininst mantras ad infinitum. Leave the whole morass behind, and start over, beyond Marx, Engels, Lenin, et al. OK, the proletariat is a fiction, one that can simply walk away from history and principle, but it can still be the core of a movement. Lenin’s sleight of hand here deadly. Let me note that revisonist history has eliminated, nearly, the memory of Kautsky who saw what Lenin was up to, and shouted out in public what was afoot. But he was successfully marginalized. Who even reads him now? That’s why I think the current Big Brother amnesia of the old left is almost unnerving: moronic thought control has succeeded outside of a dictatorship, self-enforced, self-inflicted, and self-lovingly onanistic as it dotes on the pseudo-scholarship of the Bolshevik canon and legacy.
In any case these discussions look very profound and scholarly, but the participants have failed to read serious history on the Russian Revolution, e.g.standard (bourgeois) accounts that without much bias make obvious: Lenin was a really dangerous Blanquist whose ‘coup d’etat’ branded as revolution hijacked the real legacy of the left, as Kautsky howled out loud to point out, and cemented its power by liquidating almost everyone on the socialist left of that time.
The OWS should take due note: the legacy of the old left Lenin-style would certainly move to liquidate such activists as soon as it came to any form of power.
I am often puzzled that noone ever reads any of the histories of the Russian Revolution, where the facts speak for themselves. Instead we have the sanitized versions of these leftist biographies, and the generations of leftists raised on the distorted fact set have no real grasp of what their history is, or of the really frightening career of Lenin in its last phase.
This is not a rejection of revolution, but the American Revolution seems like a lost universe compared to the monstrosity of Murder Inc. brought into existence by Lenin, who was no friend of the proletariat.