Failure Of Socialism In Russia

There are a few indisputable reasons that led to the decline of the socialist state – and its subsequent fall.

At the dawn of the USSR, hopes of the imminent global rule of communism soared high among leftists of the world. But in a few decades, it became clear that the socialistic ideals of Lenin had failed. How did this come to happen?

“It is important to distinguish socialism from communism,” says Elena Malysheva, dean at the Division of Archival Studies at the Institute for History and Archives. “While socialism was the formal type of state administration of the USSR, communism was the ruling ideology. The project of the socialist state was initially utopian and populistic.”

Rudolf Pikhoia, Doctor of historical science and the former State Archivist of Russia, argues in his paper ‘Why did the Soviet Union dissolve?’ that the main characteristic of the Soviet state was the unity of government organs and the Communist Party. The Soviet Constitution of 1977 defined the Party as “the core of the political system”. What did it mean in practice?

Lenin argued that the Soviet – the elected organs of local self-administration – was a direct democracy, so there was no need for parliament or the separation of powers (legislature, executive, and judiciary). Everything would be cared for by the members of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union, which comprised of electees from local Soviets. But the elections of the Soviets were a sham. All officials were appointed by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and its Central Committee was what really governed the state. All military men, civil servants, the police and the secret services belonged to the Party. State security was ensured by an army of KGB agents – in a recent interview, General Philipp Bobkov (1925 – 2019), former Deputy head of the KGB (1983-1991), estimated that in every region, there were about 300-500 undercover KGB agents, with up to 1,500-2,000 in major regions.

In such conditions, the discordant and the rebellious were intimidated with jails and labor camps. The horrible GULAG system had over half a million in camps in 1933; since 1936, there were over a million convicts, reaching numbers of 2,5 million by the beginning of the 1950s. The atrocities of the system were obvious, especially for foreign onlookers.

“The Soviet project contained elements of what we now call ‘a social state’: social mobility, civil society institutes, social support, free health services, etc. But, because of the utopian nature of the project, this all couldn’t be implemented in full,” says Elena Malysheva. “Non-separation of powers, self-administration of the people – all this demands high social responsibilities that Soviet society didn’t have.”

Indeed, Lenin and his comrades might have believed that all Party and Soviet officials would be fair and honest and wouldn’t bribe, steal or abuse their official status. Unfortunately, the reality was far from the truth. Even at the beginning of the Soviet state, the Bolsheviks would use inhumane methods to extract grain from peasant farmers who produced it. They met with strong civil resistance, sometimes bursting into rebellions like the Tambov rebellion of 1920-1921, where over 50,000 peasants were interred and tens of thousands were killed by the Red Army.

Meanwhile, people who didn’t fit in the ‘new world’, most of all, former bourgeoisie and landlords, were also to be destroyed: “Merciless extermination is necessary,” Lenin wrote. “On foreigners, don’t rush with expulsion. Maybe a concentration camp is better,” he argued. It was obvious Lenin was trying to build an idealistic state of social justice and equality, but with atrocious methods.

Eventually, to crush the peasants’ resistance, the state declared the nationalization of private property, and collectivization of land and means of agricultural production. Now, the peasants’ land, cattle, and agricultural tools belonged to kolkhozes – collective farms. Peasants were almost deprived of money. They worked for “day of labor” and were paid with natural products for the number of days worked. If historians talk about the abolition of serfdom in 1861, it had a revival in 1932-1937, when peasants were banned from leaving the kolkhoz they were assigned to.

The collective farming system led to a sharp decline in grain production. Provision had to be bought abroad. Once one of the world’s leading exporters of grain (as of 1913), Russia became one of its leading importers. Rudolf Pikhoia presents the statistics that in 1973, the USSR imported 13.2% of the amount of grain it was using, and in 1981 – already 41,4%.

And in 1987, only 24% of the country’s production was consumer goods: the state had boosted its unprecedented militarization at the expense of its own people.

But where did the income come from? From 1970 to 1980, oil production in Siberia increased 10 times (from 31 million tons to 312 million tons) while gas production increased from 9,5 billion cubic meters to 156 billion cubic meters. And this oil and gas were being exported to the West – the only lifeline for the declining Soviet economy.

“The Party apparatus and the state apparatus had merged on all levels: executive, administrative and communicative level,” Malysheva says. “In case of any crisis in either one of them – the other one would go into decline, too. So, when democracy started to develop in the late 1980s, the Party couldn’t hold the power. Although the Communist ideology in itself had the capacity for survival, the merging with the state apparatus doomed Communism.”

The Chernobyl catastrophe showed that the executive branch was rotten to the core. After Mikhail Gorbachev started social and political reforms, the unstable equilibrium of the Party and the State fell apart. After the introduction of real elections, the peoples of the Soviet republics showed a strong inclination for sovereignty and the opportunity to make their own decisions.

Meanwhile, the old Party apparatus mostly resigned: in 1986-1989, 90% of local Party officials in all republics resigned, and eventually, the Union fell apart. Unable to reform itself along with the demands of the era, the Soviet system proved to be unsustainable.

Georgy Manaev writes for Russia Beyond.

The photo shows, “The Search” by Nikolai Getman, painted ca. 1990s, which depicts the cruelty of the Gulag.

Lenin: The Giant Mushroom

In 1991, just months before the collapse of the USSR, Soviet audiences witnessed a shocking scene on television program, Pyatoe Koleso (The Fifth Wheel). Two serious-looking men – Sergey Sholokhov, the host and his guest, an underground musician and writer introduced as “politician and actor,” Sergey Kurekhin were sitting in a studio discussing the October revolution of 1917.

Suddenly, Kurekhin offered a very interesting hypothesis – that Vladimir Lenin, the Bolshevik leader, was not a human being but a mushroom.

Kurekhin started with a rambling discourse on the nature of revolutions and his trip to Mexico where, in ancient temples, he had seen frescoes closely resembling the events of 1917. From there, he moved on to the author Carlos Castaneda who described the practices of Central American Indians of using psychotropic drinks prepared from certain types of cacti.

“Apart from cacti, Castaneda describes mushrooms as special products with a hallucinogenic effect,” Kurekhin continued and then quoted Lenin’s letter to leading Marxist Georgi Plekhanov: “Yesterday I ate many mushrooms and felt marvelously well”. Noting that Russia’s fly-agaric mushroom has hallucinogenic effects, Kurekhin assumed that Lenin was consuming these kinds of mushrooms and had some kind of psychedelic, mind-altering experience.

It was not only Lenin who dabbled in such fungi, but other Bolsheviks as well, Kurekhin claimed. “The October revolution was made by people who had been consuming hallucinogenic mushrooms for years,” he said with a poker face. “And Lenin’s personality was replaced with that of a mushroom because fly-agaric identity is far stronger than a human one.” Therefore, he concluded, Lenin became a mushroom himself.

After that sensational statement, the program went on for another 20 minutes, with Kurekhin and Sholokhov citing endless “evidence” of Lenin’s affinity for mushrooms, starting from his passion for collecting fungi and going so far as to compare a photo of an armored vehicle Lenin once posed on to fungal mycelium.

At some point, both couldn’t help but laugh after stating that the Soviet hammer and a sickle symbol was, in fact, combination of a mushroom and a mushroom picker’s knife. But even the laughter didn’t prevent thousands of people from taking the program seriously.

“Had Kurekhin been speaking of anyone else, his words would easily have been dismissed as a joke. But Lenin! How could one joke about Lenin? Especially on Soviet television,” Russian anthropologist Alexei Yurchak said to explain the gullibility of many Soviet viewers.. He emphasized that viewers didn’t necessarily believe that Lenin was a mushroom – but they treated Kurekhin as a serious researcher, calling the television and writing letters demanding that the station confirm or refute the idea of the Bolshevik leader being a fungus.

Sergei Sholokhov, who made the program together with Kurekhin, later said: “The day after the show aired, a delegation of old Bolsheviks went to our local Communist party boss who was in charge of ideology and demanded an answer – was Lenin a mushroom or not. She answered with a fierce ‘No!’ claiming that ‘a mammal cannot be a plant’.”

Both himself and Kurekhin were quite shocked by such an answer, Sholokhov notes. On the other hand, Sholokhov may have made the story up  – just like he and Kurekhin (who died in 1996) did with the TV show.

It was Kurekhin, a humorous hoaxer who came up with the idea. In the late 1980s and early 1990s the world of Soviet media was changing, and as journalists enjoyed more freedom, some of them were talking nonsense.

As Kurekhin’s widow Anastasia recalled, “Once we saw a TV show on the death of Sergey Yesenin (the Russian poet who committed suicide in 1925). The host built his “proof” that Yesenin had actually been killed on absolutely absurd arguments. They showed photos of the poet’s funeral and said: “Look, this man is looking this way and that man is looking the other way, so it means that Yesenin was killed.” Kurekhin saw it and said to Anastasia: “You know, you can prove anything using such “evidence”. And so he did.

Alexei Yurchak explains that the hoax and people’s reactions to it was a good illustration of how people, no matter where they live, tend to trust the media without checking facts. “If there’s something in the media, there must be something to it,” Yurchak wrote. Kurekhin’s provocation was a hilarious way to prove how easy it is to feed people with the most bizarre nonsense if you sound confident enough.

 

Oleg Yegerov writes for Russia Beyond, through whose courtesy this articles is provided.

Stasiland: Or Why Communism Is Beyond Reproach

The wicked reality of Communism has, over the past twenty-five years, been deliberately erased from Western education and, more broadly, from the Western mind. This was entirely predictable. The reasons behind the erasure are not complex. The ruling classes and social tastemakers in the West at the time that Communism fell, and for decades before and since, had and have a lot of sympathy for Communism.

They were appalled by efforts, like Reagan’s, to actually end Communism, and  they had no real problem with it in practice. To nobody’s surprise, today they have no interest in admitting their support for evil, or in exposing their guilt to a new generation.

Moreover, as Ryszard Legutko has explained at length, Communism has much in common with modern liberal democracy—far more than liberal democracy has with pre-liberal forms of political thought. Education and the media are today controlled by these philo-Communists, throughout the West (with a few virtuous exceptions, notably Poland and Hungary).

As a result, from a combination of self-interest and ideological sympathy/compatibility, the vast majority of people under forty today have little idea that Communism was the most evil and most lethal political system ever derived, because the truth has been deliberately hidden from them.

Anna Funder’s Stasiland, written in 2002 but covering the author’s journeys through the former East Germany in 1996 and 2000, is a partial corrective to this erasure of memory. The Stasi, of course, were the East German secret police.

Stasiland is more of an introspective examination of individuals and their stories, heavy on emotions, including the author’s, than an abstract or statistical examination of tyranny. Certainly, tyranny is very evident in this book, but it is not a history of the horror of Communism in East Germany, it is a history of a handful of people who lived through that horror.

Perhaps, though, this is a more effective way of bringing home the reality of Communism. The Black Book of Communism documents precisely how Communism killed 100 million people, but the death of millions, as Joseph Stalin himself supposedly said, is a statistic, not a tragedy.

Stasiland vividly shows us the inescapable and inevitable reality of Communism that is almost never taught and rarely talked about in America today.

You will have to read the book to learn the stories told by Funder’s interlocutors. It is impossible to do the stories justice, both factually and to convey their emotional impact, in a summary. Not all of her interlocutors are those who were persecuted. Some of them are Stasi agents and Stasi informers. Funder even talked to Karl-Eduard von Schnitzler, famous as the rage-filled talking head on GDR (“German Democratic Republic,” for those who have forgotten) television given the task of countering facts in broadcasts from the West.

She quotes him at length justifying shooting anyone daring to try to escape from the GDR, as “humane” and necessary because “here in the GDR, peace has been elevated to a governing principle of the state.”  That reasoning is pretty much par for the course for the former agents of the East German state that Funder interviews. But, aside from the stories themselves, several key points pop out to the reader.

One is that no Communists were ever punished in any meaningful way for their crimes. Funder chalks this up to a desire to forget on the part of the Germans. This is not correct, or rather it is incomplete. Doubtless some want to forget, but the Germans have not forgotten the Nazis, because they have not allowed themselves to forget.

The key principle at work, though, can be seen not in post-Nazi history, but in the more pedestrian history of the numerous leftist and rightist regimes that have ruled in various places over the past decades. When any right-wing authoritarian regime has ended in the past hundred years and been replaced with a more democratic regime, in which the Left is again allowed free reign, those in power under the prior regime, from the lowliest functionary to the maximum leader, are always persecuted around the globe until their death.

This is done regardless of any formal legislation to the contrary, the rule of law, the doctrine forbidding ex post facto laws, or any other principle that might limit the revenge of the Left on their enemies, and it is conducted globally by the well-funded, well-connected, tightly allied Left, rabid dogs to a man.

The best prominent recent example of this is Augusto Pinochet, and perhaps Alberto Fujimori. It is easy to adduce hundreds of examples, and when such men (often heroes, like Pinochet, who saved the lives of innumerable Chilean citizens) are not judicially persecuted, they are ostracized and humiliated, spat on and forbidden to travel.

But not a single example can be adduced of the reverse process, of the persecution of leftists formerly in power, anywhere on the globe, at any time, even though leftists have killed far, far, more people than rightist regimes. It is amazing, if you think about it. No Communist or leftist formerly in power in Central or South America, or Europe, or anywhere, has ever been punished with anything more than a slap on the wrist, no matter how many tens of thousands they killed.

In most cases, like Fidel Castro, they have been globally lionized, free to travel in luxury anywhere, at any time, with no fear of criticism, much less punishment. While Funder does not draw this specific contrast between the treatment of Left and Right, she does cover how Erich Honecker, Erich Mielke, and other mass murderers, along with tens of thousands of other killers and torturers, received zero punishment. (Bizarrely, the only crime Mielke was convicted of was two murders of policemen committed in 1931).

In fact, all former Communists for the most part quickly became embedded in the new regimes, often personally greatly profiting, and not facing even social ostracism. Moreover, the higher profile Communists were, after their fall, openly celebrated around the world by the Left. Their lives were mostly awesome, post-Communism. Nice work if you can get it, I suppose, but a few more such bad men floating face-down in canals, if the law will not do its job, would have been, and still is, a good idea.

A second key point is the total corrosion of civil society that was created by the informer state set up by the Stasi. “Relations between people were conditioned by the fact that one or the other of you could be one of them. Everyone suspected everyone else, and the mistrust this bred was the foundation of social existence.”

This is not surprising, given that there was one informer in every seven citizens, and that the Left, unlike rightist authoritarian regimes, functions mostly on terror (rather than simple political repression), of which informants are a critical element.

Funder gives an excellent flavor of this corrosive terror, which is also well shown in The Lives of Others, the 2006 film about life in the GDR (although that film was criticized by some, including Funder, for inaccurately portraying the GDR and the Stasi as softer and more humanized than they really were).

A third point is that Funder explains why anyone would join the Stasi, or become an informant, at all. To us, living in a mostly free society, it seems like an odd choice to voluntarily become an agent of terror.

But, “In a society riven into ‘us’ and ‘them,’ an ambitious young person might well want to be one of the group in the know, one of the unmolested. If there was never going to be an end to your country, and you could never leave, why wouldn’t you opt for a peaceful life and a satisfying career?”

This strikes me as a cogent analysis, especially in a society where Christian morality has been erased and all that is left is self-interest, with no responsibility to one’s fellow man. And it is closely related to C. S. Lewis’s concept of the “Inner Ring”—that people will often compromise themselves without limit merely to obtain a sense of being in the ruling group.

In another passage in the book, Funder quotes a Stasi officer, asked “Why did [the informers] do it?,” as responding “Well, some of them were convinced of the [Communist] cause. But I think it was mainly because informers got the feeling that, doing it, they were somebody…They felt they had it over other people.”

This feeling of “having it over other people” is a key driver of the Left’s will to power, and a major reason why leftist regimes are able to maintain their power even when they are obvious criminal states not even bothering to pretend to adhere to their own ideological premises.

Most interesting, perhaps, is something not covered in the book at all, and that is the book’s reception in Germany. In 2016, in connection with the re-release of the book, Funder discussed at length that Germans received her book mostly with either active hostility, in the case of innumerable former Stasi agents or informers and their allies, or with icy silence, in the case of most other Germans.

In the latter category fit both West Germans who, for the most part (as Funder also notes in the book itself) don’t like to talk about Communism, probably for the same reasons that the American ruling classes don’t like to talk about Communism, some combination of shame at their own actions and active sympathy for Communism, and East Germans who want to believe that the GDR was somehow not all that bad.

Funder cited (in 2016) one of her interlocutors, “Miriam,” who now refused to give her real name publicly in connection with the book, because in her new job in public broadcasting her bosses were all former Stasi informers who loathed her for having been a political prisoner:

“[Her bosses] disliked, too, that she sometimes objected to the news directors relegating an item showing the GDR or the Stasi in a bad light to the end of the bulletin, or not broadcasting such pieces at all. [Miriam] objected to what she saw as strenuous efforts, in the public broadcaster, to show the GDR as a harmless, safe welfare state with high ideals; she objected to the rampant Ostalgie [simpering nostalgia for the GDR], the Verharmlosung (rendering harmless), and the Schönreden (whitewashing). Miriam had spent almost her whole life battling the Stasi, and they were still there. She was tired, on a short-term contract and vulnerable. It would simply have made her working life too difficult to publicly ‘out’ herself. She decided not to come on television.”

Funder chalks this up, with an analogy to those who fought Nazism, to the need for some decades to pass for heroes who resisted tyranny to be rewarded. Sadly, this is not correct. She says it will probably take twenty or even twenty-five years.

But that time has passed, and there is no such movement at all, as Funder’s 2016 discussions showed. I can confidently predict that in twenty years from now, or forty, or sixty, not only will there be no such recognition of heroism, but the heroes will be mostly forgotten, and when remembered, cast in a dubious light.

They will be viewed as men and women of mixed character, who, because the evils of Communism have been mostly or totally forgotten and suppressed, will be criticized for extremism and failure to recognize the supposed good aspects of Communism, which resisters to Communism will be seen as having undercut by their opposition. Thus, they will receive no honor at all.

The naked truth is that the Left, which controls all of German social and political life today, likes and has always liked Communism, and hates and hated those who opposed it. Until their power is broken (which may, indeed, happen before twenty years are up, in which case I withdraw my prediction), there will be no recognition of the heroes who resisted at great personal cost.

In Hungary and Poland, which have, fortunately, already partially broken the power of the Left, such recognition has occurred and is continuing, suggesting I am right, and Funder is wrong.

In fairness, though, Funder does acknowledge the possibility of recognition never coming, though under a different mechanism:  “There may never be [such recognition], if the Stasi win the PR war they have been waging, a war apparently supported by a general public that does not want to have to acknowledge this second lot of twentieth-century-German evildoers.”

But it is not just the former Stasi—it is their allies and comrades in arms, the Left in general, both in Germany and globally. They are responsible for the evils of Communism, not, as they would have it, some unspecified, vague set of forgotten men and women, more sinned against than sinning, misled by their desire to achieve human happiness. All of them should be held to account, and punished accordingly.

Charles is a business owner and operator, in manufacturing, and a recovering big firm M&A lawyer. He runs the blog, The Worthy House.
The photo shows, “Requiem” by Werner Tübke, painted in 1965. 

Lenin: Master Of Terror

When we think of the Soviet Union, we mostly think of it as a fully realized totalitarian state. We think of Stalin, of World War II and of the Cold War. Lenin is a shadowy figure to most of us, usually lumped in with the chaos that preceded and surrounded the Russian Revolution.

As a result, biographies of Stalin and histories of the Cold War are a dime a dozen, but there are few objective biographies of Lenin. Lenin, though, was the true author of Soviet totalitarianism, and, more importantly, he, and he alone, was the indispensable man to the creation of Communism as a realized state, even if he did not live to see it.

His life, therefore, is important, in that it illuminates history, and also in that it provides, in some ways, an instruction book for those seeking change today.

You would think I, at least, would know more about Lenin that I do. My father was a professor of Russian history, my mother’s family fled Communist domination in 1945, and I grew up through the ending stages of the Cold War.

But really, until I read this book, by Victor Sebestyen, I knew very little, other than that Lenin was the fulcrum around which Communism turned from a mere extremist ideology of babblers and dreamers to an iron hand that nearly crushed the world. (And also that his body was, oddly, still embalmed and on display twenty-five years after Communism itself died.)

Sebestyen’s book does an excellent job of covering Lenin’s life, in highly readable prose and without getting too bogged down in details. This book also has the advantage of being written after many archives were opened following the fall of Communism.

Although those archives didn’t change the major outlines of Lenin’s life and career, Sebestyen adds quite a bit of personal flavor about Lenin that was missing until those archives became available, especially regarding his irregular relationship with his quasi-mistress, Inessa Armand.

I find myself finding Lenin strangely attractive, in these latter days, when everything old is new again. Not his goals, which are silly and pernicious, or his fanatical devotion to an ideology, which, no matter the ideology, is always a mistake.

But his discipline and his methods of acquiring power show a purity and consistency of purpose which is totally lacking among conservatives today, who instead spend their days on the disorganized defensive, and he always demonstrated a grasp of reality which is totally lacking among progressives today. (Lenin also loathed modern art, and always dressed nattily, both to his credit).

I don’t think I’ll be putting up a portrait of Lenin anytime soon, or ever, but after reading this book, I am beginning to think his personality and methods will reward close study (although, as with Milton’s Satan, one must be on his guard not to be seduced).

Pre-Revolutionary Russia seems very far away from us. Poor, corrupt, and intensely authoritarian, wracked by violence on a scale incomprehensible to us (tens of thousands of government officials were assassinated in the last few years of the Romanovs’ rule, and then there was the whole World War I thing), it is difficult at first to see many parallels to our time.

Still, there are more than a few, and even where there are no parallels, there may still be lessons. Sebestyen agrees, citing the loss, then as now, of “confidence in much of the West in the democratic process itself,” “Lenin would very probably have regarded the world of 2017 as being on the cusp of a revolutionary moment. . . .

The phrases ‘global elite’, and ‘the 1 per cent’ are now used in a decidedly Leninist way. It is unlikely that Lenin’s solutions will be adopted anywhere again. But his questions are constantly being asked today, and may be answered by equally bloody methods.”

Lenin (that is, Vladimir Ulyanov, his real name) was born in 1870 and died in 1924, at only 53. He was born in Simbirsk, a sleepy provincial town, to bourgeois parents—his father was a successful civil servant in the education ministry, a moderate liberal whose attempts at education reform were largely frustrated by the 1881 accession of Alexander III (whose more lenient predecessor was assassinated).

Lenin’s father died in in 1886, when Lenin was only 16, and the following year, his brilliant and idolized older brother, Sasha, was hanged for his role in an assassination plot against the new Tsar. This, along with the social isolation that descended as a result on the family, gave Lenin a lifelong hatred of the Tsars and the bourgeois, before he became a Marxist ideologue.

I suppose this is yet another example of how personal events often shape great men, from Alexander Hamilton’s illegitimate birth on Nevis to Donald Trump’s poverty-wracked upbringing in Appalachia.

Lenin’s education was somewhat irregular, since he was denied the usual university placements due to his brother’s politics, and due to his own, which quickly became radical, although he was not a leader of any groups at this time.

Still, he managed to become highly educated, while being formed by books like Nikolai Chernyshevsky’s What Is to Be Done?, a strident work of fiction about an iron-willed revolutionary, which Sebestyen says is nearly unreadable today but which greatly affected Lenin, who consciously modelled himself on the book’s hero.

Not that he completely ignored pleasures—his greatest was nature, especially walks in nature. (It is strange in these days of constant connectivity to read how Lenin, even at busy and critical times in his life, would take multi-week vacations in the country, doing nothing and being functionally unreachable by other Bolsheviks).

Naturally, he practiced as a lawyer for some time (successfully getting the necessary certificate of loyalty and good character from the Okhrana, the cruel but buffoonish Tsarist secret police, in 1891), but quickly became a full-time Communist agitator, a job he kept for the rest of his life.

Unlike most cult leaders, Lenin lacked interest in vices of the flesh. He was not corruptible by money, women, or, really, power. He didn’t smoke or party. His forte was discipline and focus. No doubt connected to this, from the beginning Lenin betrayed zero human sympathy beyond his immediate family circle.

In 1892 he opposed famine relief in the Volga, because the famine was desirable to show that capitalism was incompetent and dying—never mind that thousands of peasants were dying too. This well illustrates ones of Lenin’s guiding principles, that “Our morality is new, our humanity is absolute, for it rests on the ideal of destroying all oppression and coercion.”

As Ryszard Legutko has pointed out, there is a very significant overlap of theory and practice among so called “liberal democracy” and Communism, and one reason Communists were never punished is that the “liberal democrats” currently in control of most of the West had much more sympathy for Communism than for traditional currents of thought.

More broadly, across the West today, any action, however damaging to real human beings, is justified by the Left by a call to “emancipation,” identical to Lenin’s, with the same disregard for actual people. Certainly, the Left would love to take advantage of a famine or any human disaster even now, if it could be tied to increased emancipation.

Their disinterest in the epidemics of opioid addiction, dependency, and despair afflicting the deplorable, Trump-voting white lower classes is evidence enough of that. If they could cause a famine among those people, they would, and laugh.

Much of the book is taken up with narration of Lenin’s combat with other elements of the Left, tied to a never-ending whirl of conspiratorial international meetings, avoidance of arrest by various police forces, struggles for control of newspapers, and hard work to smuggle into Russia and distribute those newspapers.

Those newspapers had a great effect within Russia and gave the Bolsheviks much of the power they accumulated. Such media not only sways opinion, but can create opinion from whole cloth, and also provide readers with a sense of comradeship and non-isolation, which is why today’s Left so aggressively and increasingly censors conservatives online.

Naturally, Lenin was eventually arrested, and as was usual under the Tsars, merely sentenced to a few years of internal exile, which he used to study hard.

As Sebestyen notes, “The Tsarist penal regime was far more benign for political prisoners than it would be in later years under the Soviets, where torture and summary execution were the norm.” (Not that it was all fun and games—plenty of people died as a result under the Tsars, especially those exiled to less salubrious places than Lenin was).

Eventually Lenin left Russia, moving to Germany, then England, then Switzerland, all the while continuing revolutionary activities. He worked incessantly, primarily on writing, both journalism and books.

As always, he stayed focused. Most of all, he consistently offered a simple message of “optimism and hope. He told his followers that they could change the world in the here and now, if they followed a set of essentially easy-to-comprehend steps and believed in a few fairly straightforward propositions.”

Along the way Lenin collected various followers and allies (most of whom he later broke with), from Leon Trotsky to Grigory Zinoviev. Sebestyen covers all this with verve, adding bits and pieces of interesting information. For example, I did not know that that suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst, lionized today, was a Communist, and a vicious one at that.

And, then, came Lenin’s moment, created by World War I and the incompetence of Nicholas II (whom Sebestyen regards with very strong distaste for his ineptitude).

The economic collapse and dissatisfaction of the masses of peasant soldiers created the conditions without which the Bolsheviks would never have had the chance to grasp power (not that the soldiers had any interest whatsoever in Bolshevism—what they wanted was “anarchistic freedom,” and Lenin had that on offer, or so it appeared).

But they, in the person of Lenin, did have that chance, and they grasped it. Not to overthrow the Tsar, as many ill-informed people think, but to overthrow the democratic successor government, in a coup vividly covered by Sebestyen, which succeeded even though its imminence was the worst-kept secret in Russia and it was incompetently executed.

It is a commonplace that the Kerensky government was run by fools, and that is very evident in the account given here. They responded, when the British offered to stop Lenin from returning on the “sealed train” provided by the Germans, that since Russia’s new government “rested on a democratic foundation . . . . Lenin’s group should be allowed to enter.”

And rather than seizing Lenin when he arrived, killing him and throwing his body into a canal, as had been done with Rasputin and should have been done with him, they dithered. They did not know their enemy. This is not surprising, though.

As history repeatedly shows, the vast majority of those who are threatened by bad people in any way, rather than meeting the threat with action, prefer to retreat into half-, or quarter-, measures, or into fantastical hopes that somehow they will be rescued by an external agency.

As Benjamin Franklin, and not the Bible, said, “The Lord helps those who help themselves.” But helping themselves is something people usually find hard to do.

My main interests in Lenin are two, although they are closely related. My first interest is that Lenin shows us how the Left always thinks and operates, then and now, since Lenin first established the template for successful Left dominance.

Therefore, studying Lenin has tactical value in the wars to come. We can closely examine how and why this is so through a particular ideological obsession of the modern Left, which this week has yet again raised its ugly head—gun control. (It is also an obsession of the past Left—one of the Bolsheviks’ first edicts was to confiscate all privately held guns, under penalty of summary execution for failure to comply, something that the odious Shannon Watts and Michael Bloomberg would, if they were being honest, doubtless completely endorse).

For the Left, gun control is justified not by its demonstrated, or even possible, benefits to society (though laughable claims along those lines are mouthed for propaganda purposes). Rather, it is justified by its purposes, which are to ensure that the ruled know that they are ruled, to ensure they continue to be ruled, and to signal to the rulers, the Left classes, their supposed moral superiority.

Gun control is not a policy choice; it is the opium of narcissistic tyrants.
So, to take one example of Left tactics, Lenin continuously used violent language which, in his own words, was “calculated to evoke hatred, aversion, contempt . . . not to convince, not to correct the mistakes of the opponent, but to destroy him, to wipe him and his organization off the face of the earth.”

Or, as Sebestyen characterizes it, “Communist Parties everywhere, even following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, learned that it made sense to play the man, not the ball—and how to do it with ruthless efficiency.”

But Sebestyen is wrong—it’s not Communist Parties, it’s also the entire progressive Left, and has been since Lenin (whose broad program they have always supported). These tactics of “hatred, aversion, contempt” continue to be on full gruesome display at this very moment in the disgusting, hate-filled propaganda campaign being waged by the Left (who totally control the news-setting media, and thus the narrative, by deciding what constitutes “news”), to demand mass gun confiscation, in response to school shootings that occur largely because of their social policies.

The good news, I suppose, is that Lenin was using a new tactic, successful largely because nobody knew how to respond to such tactics—either his Left opponents, whom he steamrolled, or his Right opponents. We do know how, and that’s to hit back twice as hard.

We just have trouble executing the right tactics, because the Republicans are run by weak men who are happy to bow and scrape to their betters as long as they are thrown a few crumbs and invited occasionally to the right parties.

To take a second example, during a 1922 famine, “Lenin deliberately used the famine as an excuse to launch an assault on the clergy [to seize liturgical vessels and other metals]. . . . ‘We must seize the valuables now speedily; we will be unable to do so later because no other moment except that of desperate hunger will give us support among the masses.’ ”

This use of unrelated, manufactured or fictional crises as the moment of action, whether because the masses are desperately occupied with their own concerns (as Rahm Emanuel famously openly admitted under Obama) or in order to propagandize the masses by manipulating irrational and immature emotions (as with gun control) is also a universal tactic of the Left, also largely invented by Lenin.

Its modern counter is less obvious than the counter to violence in language and action, and probably requires structuring and maintaining permanent and binding organizational brakes on rapid legislative or executive action, the opposite of the “more democracy” constantly called for by the Left.
And to take a third, closely related but distinct, example, the Left does love themselves a good Reichstag fire.

The Bolsheviks used a 1918 assassination attempt on Lenin by a (non-Bolshevik) leftist as an excuse to eliminate opponents and generally consolidate their power through a wave of mass terror.

With gun control, the exact same tactic is used—not by killing opponents, or not yet, but by suspending all normal processes of republican debate and decision-making, demanding that “something must be done”—naturally, something that aligns perfectly with their pre-existing ideological goals and plans, no possible deviation from which can be discussed, much less implemented, and which must be implemented immediately, though no reason for the urgency is given, or can be given, other than the need to impose their desires on the rest of the nation.

The classic example of this is the repeated use in state legislatures of “emergency” procedures to pass gun control measures after a shooting, formally eliminating any debate or public input, and demands for similar action at the federal level.

So far, so generic, really. The modern Left is unscrupulous and often evil, no doubt, but this is not news, and I am being repetitive, if you look at other writings of mine. More interesting, I think, is my second interest in Lenin—as a model for how a reactionary movement might acquire power in America.

By definition, nearly, a reactionary movement contemplates a formal concentration and reallocation of power, rather than a formal diffusion, as some conservatives would have it.

That is, if the Enlightenment project of ever greater autonomy and atomization is defective, and as part of that project the Left has consistently advanced their goal of concentrating power to themselves while pretending to increase democracy (that is, allowing democracy as long as it reaches the correct conclusions), breaking both the Left concentration of power and the forms of sprawling, ever-expanding democracy is necessary to remake the political system.

Presumably this would involve some form of restricted franchise and a return to a mixed form of government (e.g., returning to the Senate being elected by state legislatures), but the details do not matter here. We can simply call it the “Program,” for now. The question is, how is the Program to be accomplished? And here Lenin is instructive.

I don’t mean Lenin in the substance of his ideas, essentially 100% of which were pernicious, and the vast majority of which were outright evil. Nor do I mean Lenin in the substance of his implementation, which, flowing from his ideas, necessarily implied and required terror and mass murder.

Rather, I mean Lenin in his efforts to gain power so that he could implement his program, which is just about 180 degrees from the Program.

So, how is Lenin instructive? Here, a few thoughts. Lenin thought long term, but with an eye to the main chance, which he took when he got it, unlike most men in his position, who would have dithered. “There are decades when nothing happens—and there are weeks when decades happen.” “Timing is all.”

But without his discipline and focus, he would have had no chance at all, willingness to risk everything or not. And, while an ideologue, he was willing to be flexible in his interpretation of theory, rather than getting bogged down in debating ideological purity (as Communist splinter groups, as well as conservatives, have always been prone to do, while the successful Bolsheviks, like today’s Left, paper over differences to achieve power).

All these practices allowed Lenin to seize opportunities created by chance the mistakes of his enemies. “We made the Bolsheviks masters of the situation,” said Sukhanov, an opponent of Lenin [on the Left]. “By leaving the [1917] Congress [of Soviets] we gave them a monopoly on the Soviets. Our own irrational decisions ensured Lenin’s victory.”

Yes, but only Lenin’s ability to take advantage made the Mensheviks’ mistakes matter.

These are all mental tactics. Practical tactics are just as important, and often just as difficult to execute. I mentioned newspapers, the media, above—not its control, which Lenin grasped as soon as he took power, but the earlier dissemination of ideas through media, both for their own contagion, and to buck up your allies.

Behind newspapers, behind organization, behind everything, though, is funding—obtaining, and keeping on obtaining, cold, hard, cash. Far more than other Left groups, the Bolsheviks were able to scoop up enormous amounts of money from a huge range of sources—not just the bank robberies famously conducted by Stalin, but from a mélange of non-radical liberals hoping to show their bona fides, cynical business magnates covering all the bases (they thought), and the German government.

According to Niall Ferguson, the Germans alone supplied Lenin with the modern equivalent of $800 million, in gold currency. The Program requires cash, not some mutterings on little-trafficked websites like this one, and principle only takes you so far. And, of course, the Program requires people, who are organized, both by the desire for common participation in a goal, and by that cash. Lenin excelled at all these practical tactics, and he was indefatigable.

How exactly to fit these tactics into the implementation of the Program I am working on, and will discuss in detail on another day. But certainly the tactics of today’s American conservatives bear no relation to Leninist tactics, which is to say, they bear no relation to the tactics necessary to break the autocracy of the Left. (This is doubtless why Steve Bannon referred to himself as a Leninist, or so it is said, which the ignorant took to mean that he was referring to himself as a Communist).

Continuing what we are doing will not result in anything but the continued domination of the Left over American life and culture, and the necessary degradation and diminution of America, and the West in general. Thus, I will offer a full solution, and it will not be ideological. But you will have to wait a while.

What I will not do is write persuasive arguments about policy. Not so long ago I regularly engaged the Left in discussion, primarily through Facebook (since the New York Times has not come knocking on my door). As far as gun control arguments go, I always decisively won every argument.

This is not because I am so awesome, but because gun control proponents, with zero exceptions, have no idea what they are talking about, and rely exclusively on shrill emotion, backed up by lies. I am off Facebook, for the most part, and totally off for Lent and Eastertide.

But today, in order to push back slightly against the organized flood of violent hatred directed at gun owners, I changed my profile picture to the NRA symbol. Two Left friends of mine immediately commented. What they said, I don’t know, except that one mumbled something about “blood money” (today’s meme, organized and distributed centrally to the drones like my friend).

I don’t know what they said because I deleted both comments without reading them. What profit to talk, since they are not interested in reasoning, but in moral preening and tyranny?

On many issues, such as guns, and perhaps on the most central social issue of all, how we shall be governed, the time for talking is over, on Facebook and elsewhere, with friends or with enemies. The time for action is here. The only question is how much chaos will result before the world is remade.

Charles is a business owner and operator, in manufacturing, and a recovering big firm M&A lawyer. He runs the blog, The Worthy House.
The photo shows, “In the Basement of the Cheka,” by Ivan Vladimirov, painted in 1919.