V.I. Lenin: The Compulsive Revolutionary
Posted on February 21st, 2015

Dr. Ruwan M Jayatunge M.D.

“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen”–Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

Lenin was born Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov on April 22, 1870, in Simbirsk, Russia. Until 1901, he was known as. Volodya or Vladimir Ulyanov. In 1910 he took the political alias of Lenin. He was a political genius and also the main architect of the Soviet Union. Lenin’s theories became a major part of the Communist worldview. He transformed the Russian Empire in to a Marxists state.

According to the newly revealed actualities Lenin’s childhood has been scrutinized. These reports indicate that he was a problem child. He displayed a number of childhood neurotic behavior. Little. Volodya used to go in to hyperactive and hysterical behavior and sometimes used to bang his head on the floor. He was a neurotic child with tantrums.  He experienced more psychological distress than other Ulyanov children probably due to insecurity. Constantly Volodya needed his mother’s attention and his father’s approval.

However he was not his parent’s favorite child. Lenin’s elder brother Aleksandr Ilyich Ulyanov became the central attraction in the family. He was an eloquent intelligent and a gentle child. Everyone adored him. From the early days Volodiya (Lenin) had a resentment and jealousy towards Aleksandr or Sacha. However things changed dramatically when Aleksandr Ulyanov was arrested by the Police for an assassination attempt on the life of Alexander III of Russia. Later He was hanged.

Young Volodiya (Lenin) experienced two family tragedies which changed his life drastically. One was the death of his father Ilya Nikolayevich Ulyanov (1886) and the second – execution of his brother Aleksandr in 1887. Both events transformed him to an emotionally numbed radical character. Sacha was his competitor as well as his role model. Sacha‘s departure created a deep void in him. Until Sacha’s death he was not interested in politics. He was mostly reading the works of Mikhail Lermontov and Alexander Pushkin. But after Sacha’s death he entered in to underground politics. He began his active revolutionary work in 1892.

Sasha’s death haunted Volodiya relentlessly. He began to study Marxism and became an orthodox Marxist He became a Compulsive Revolutionary. Revolution became an obsession for him. Lenin once said Revolutions are the locomotive of history. Bolton (2012) states that traumas in Lenin’s youth did provide the catalyst for his life’s course.

Lenin was an excellent orator and a propagandist. His writings were incomparable. He had the ability of analyzing political events radiantly. He was charming and a charismatic person. He had outstanding organizational skills. He was becoming popular among other revolutionaries. His slogans attracted a large number of followers home and abroad.

While working as a revolutionist and living in exile Lenin published his philosophical work titled Materialism and Empiriocriticism in which he argued the human perceptions and the objective external world. In his 1901 political pamphlet What Is to Be Done? Lenin insisted that Marxists should form a political party, or “vanguard,” of dedicated revolutionaries to spread Marxist political ideas among the workers (Martin, 1994). Lenin believed that capitalism was doomed by its inherent contradictions, and would inevitably collapse.

In January 1905, the massacre of protesters that came to be known as Bloody Sunday took place in St. Petersburg, sparking the civil unrest known as the Revolution of 1905 (Rice, 1990). Condemning this bloody event Lenin used Bolsheviks to cause violent unrests against the Tsarist establishment. Furthermore Lenin attacked Chornaya Sotnya or the Black Hundreds – an ultra-nationalist movement in Russia.

When the First World War broke out Lenin remarked that it was an annexationist, predatory, plunderous war. In 1917 he wrote: Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism. He was against the war. Lenin and his supporters encouraged the retreating Russian army soldiers to cause unrest in Russia. In his “Aprelskiye Tezisy”, (April Theses) written in 1917 Lenin called for Soviet control of the state.

On March 15, 1917 the Czar Tsar Nicholas II abdicated the throne. When this event occurred Lenin was in Switzerland. Much of the revolutionary activity were organized by Leon Trotsky or Lev Davidovich Bronshtein. He was the guiding force behind the October Revolution. When radical changes were happening in his home country the German authorities helped Lenin return to St Petersburg. Lenin led the Bolsheviks in the overthrow of the provisional government of Alexander Kerensky. Although Kerensky was his childhood friend Lenin wanted to arrest him. Kerensky narrowly escaped from Bolsheviks and escaped to Paris. Lenin became the chief commissar of Russia. He signed an armistice with Germany and ended the   Russia’s involvement in World War I which infuriated England and France.

Allied Intervention and the Russian Civil War occurred during 1917 to 1922. Allied military assistance intensified the civil war. The Civil War had wreak havoc on the country. In 1917 the Russian Empire disintegrated. The Soviet Union was formed in 1922 from the Empire’s rubble, without Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and parts of the Ukraine and Belorussia. The Central Asian territories of Khiva and Bukhara were formally incorporated in 1925 (Markevich & Harrison, 2011).

In September 1917 Vladimir Lenin wrote: “There is only one way to prevent the restoration of the police, and that is to create a people’s militia and to fuse it with the army. Lenin’s militarization of Marxism involved a substantial shift in the place of war in socialist ideology. War, while previously seen as a social evil imposed upon the working class, had never stood at the center of Marxist analysis of capitalism. Lenin put it there. He emphasized the inevitability of wars among capitalist states in the age of imperialism and presented the armed struggle of the working class as the only path towards the eventual elimination of war (Kipp, 1985).

The State and Revolution (1917) by Vladimir Lenin, described the role of the State in society, the necessity of proletarian revolution.  Suny (1983) indicates that the Bolsheviks came to power not because they were superior manipulators or cynical opportunists but because their policies as formulated by Lenin in April and shaped by the events of the following months placed them at the head of a genuinely popular movement. Lenin believed that mass terror as a necessary weapon during the dictatorship of proletariat and the resulting class struggle.

According to Dr. James Ryan Lenin used terror against classes soon after the October Revolution. He considered mass terror a strategic and efficient method for advancing revolutionary goals (Chaliand & Arnaud, 2007). Lenin projected the responsibility of his brother’s execution onto entire social classes (Bolton, 2012).  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) was of the view that the Russian Revolution was an invasion and conquest over the Russian people. He used the term revolutionary genocide and claimed that it swallowed up some 60 million of human lives.

One of the gruesome acts of the 1917 Revolution denoted as the killing of the Russian Imperial Romanov family. On the 17th of July 1918 the family of Russia’s last Emperor, Nicolas II and his family were killed in Ekateringburg in the Urals. The Emperor Nicholas II, his family members, and persons in their attendance and the Prince Alexey’s pet dog were brutally murdered by Yaakov Yurovsky and his firing squad.

Although it was is claimed that a telegram giving the order to execute the prisoners on behalf of the Supreme Soviet in Moscow was signed by Yakov Sverdlov – chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, Lenin knew and approved the deaths of Romanovs. The murder may have taken place in order to prevent the royals from being liberated by approaching White forces as well as It  may have been to avenge what the tsarist regime had done to his brother.

After killing of the Romanov family Trotsky wrote: the decision [to kill the imperial family] was not only expedient but necessary. The severity of this punishment showed everyone that we would continue to fight on mercilessly, stopping at nothing. The execution of the Tsar’s family was needed not only in order to frighten, horrify, and instill a sense of hopelessness in the enemy but also to shake up our own ranks, to show that there was no turning back, that ahead lay either total victory or total doom    (Pipes, 1990).

Lenin was against the class system. In 1901 he stated: If democracy, in essence, means the abolition of class domination, then why should not a socialist minister charm the whole bourgeois world by orations on class collaboration? (Lenin, What Is To Be Done? Dogmatism and ‘Freedom of Criticism’”) Lenin approved terror tactics against classes. In 1918 Yakov Sverdlovsk – officially announced Red Terror. Sverdlovsk always took orders from Lenin. After the October Revolution mass executions of people took place and killings were based not upon their actions but their class origins and beliefs. According to Stewart-Smith (1964) estimates that the total number of people killed in the Red Terror range from 50,000 to over a million.

Pipes (2014) points out that although pre-Stalin gulags have been ignored by historians the Soviet concentration camps first came into existence under Lenin and Trotsky. Nonetheless when Stalin came to power the slave labor camps reached their pinnacle. Many leading Bolsheviks were of the view that human lives are expendable in the cause of building Communism. In 1918 Grigory Zinoviev said: To overcome our enemies we must have our own socialist militarism. We must carry along with us 90 million out of the 100 million of Soviet Russia’s population. As for the rest, we have nothing to say to them. They must be annihilated (Leggett, 1986).

Cheka (the Extraordinary Commission against counter-revolution, sabotage and speculation) or the Soviet state security organization was created on December 20, 1917, by Vladimir Lenin. Cheka was headed by Felix Dzerzhinsky who had a tormented childhood and probably suffered from Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Dzerzhinsky conducted a large number of summary executions. Dzerzhinsky declared: We stand for organized terror – this should be frankly admitted. Terror is an absolute necessity during times of revolution.

The Cheka published an article on the 18th of August 1919 in Krasnyi Mech (the Red Sword) newspaper: “We reject the old morality and ‘humanity’ invented by the bourgeoisie in order to oppress and exploit the lower classes. Our morality does not have a precedent, our humanity is absolute because it rests on a new ideal: to destroy any form of oppression and violence. To us, everything is permitted because we are the very first to raise our swords not to oppress and enslave, but to release humanity from its chains… Blood? Let blood be shed! Only blood can dye the black flag of the pirate bourgeoisie, turning it once and for all into a red banner, flag of the Revolution. Only the old world’s final demise will free us forever from the return of the jackals.”

The Cheka was intended to inherit the security responsibilities of the dissolved Military Revolutionary Committee (MRC). The Bolshevik-controlled Sovnarkom charged the Cheka to investigate and liquidate all attempts or actions connected with counter-revolution or sabotage, whether they were domestic or foreign in origin, and were expected to deliver the ‘criminals’ to Revolutionary Tribunals to face trial (Lewis, 2007). According to the Russian historian Sergei Petrovich Melgunov Cheka’s executions estimated at between 100,000 and 500,000. Felix Dzerzhinsky;s methods were never questioned and Lenin always defended the work of Dzerzhinsky.

At times Lenin was uncaring. Richard Pipes an emeritus professor of Russian history at Harvard University highlights that during 1891 Volga famine Lenin 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.

In the early years Lenin used Stalin to full fill hard tasks for the Revolution. Stalin was involved in the 1907 Tiflis bank robbery. Some of the stolen money was delivered to Lenin when he was living in Finland. This money was used in revolutionary activities.

Lenin had little regard for Trotsky’s judgment on important matters and relied heavily on Stalin (Pipes, 1999). Leon Trotsky never trusted Stalin and he was called by the nickname of Mountaineer.

After the Bolshevik Revolution Stalin detained a group of Red Army officers who were loyal to Trotsky and they were kept in a barge. However the barge snaked killing all the officers.  Trotsky suspected a sabotage that was planned by Stalin. Although Trotsky urged Lenin to take stern actions against Stalin the matter was dropped. Lenin was soft on Stalin. However gradually Lenin grew to distrust him and criticized Stalin’s crude nature.

On May 25, 1922, Lenin suffered a stroke and his health started to deteriorate.  He had to go for semi-retirement and Stalin gradually started strengthening his possession as Lenin’s successor. However after Stalin verbally swore at Lenin’s wife Nadezhda Krupskaya Lenin demanded an apology. In addition in his testament Lenin recommended that Stalin be removed from his position as secretary-general of the party.

After Lenin’s third stroke in March 1923 left him paralyzed and unable to speak.  According to the official version, Lenin’s illness began in 1922, although the first signs and symptoms were probably manifested many years earlier (Learner et al., 2004). Lenin died in January 1924, aged 53.  Lenin’s autopsy revealed cerebral calcification. The reason for his premature atherosclerosis has yet to be explained. He had a family history of cardiovascular disease and, therefore, is suspected of having had an inherited lipid disorder. Stress too might have had a role in the progression of his atherosclerosis (Vinters, Lurie & Mackowiak, 2013). The left brain hemisphere   was seriously suffered as a result of the vessels damage of atherosclerosis origin ( Adrianov  et al.,1993 )

After Lenin’s death Stalin elevated Lenin as a demi god creating a cult of worship of the deceased leader. Against Lenin’s wishes, he was given a lavish funeral and his body was embalmed and put on display. Stalin promoted Lenin in quasi-religious fashion (Cawthorne, 2011).   But he abolished Lenin’s New Economic Policy which granted more economic freedom for the peasants and promoted agriculture.

Lenin stands out as one of the revolutionary thinkers of 20th century. He brought a highly influential ideology. Lenin considered “moral questions” to be “an irrelevance”, rejecting the concept of moral absolutism; instead he judged whether an action was justifiable based upon its chances of success for the revolutionary cause (Service, 2000). Indeed he was a dedicated revolutionist. As Bolton (2012) states that the rest of the life of the once apolitical youth who became Lenin was fanatically devoted to avenging his brother’s death, and ‘Lenin’ was the persona that was adopted for the purpose. He became a compulsive revolutionary.

 

Acknowledgments

  • James Ryan Lecturer in Modern European (Russian) History School of History, Archaeology and Religion Cardiff University
  • Richard Pipes, Baird Professor Emeritus of History at Harvard University
  • Professor Ignacio Sánchez-Cuenca- Associate Professor in the Political Science Department at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona.

References

Bolton, K.R. (2012). Vladimir Lenin: Syphilitic Mattoid Motivated by PTED. Retrieved from http://www.theoccidentalobserver.net/2012/05/vladimir-lenin-syphilitic-mattoid-motivated-by-pted/

Cawthorne , N.(2012). Stalin: The Murderous Career of the Red Tsar.Arcturus Publishing Limited.

Chaliand,G.,  , Arnaud,B. (2007). The history of terrorism: from antiquity to al Qaeda. University of California Press

Kipp, J. W. (1985). “Lenin and Clausewitz – the Militarization of Marxism, 1914-1921.” Military. Affairs 49(4): 184-191.

Leggett, G. (1986).The Cheka: Lenin’s Political PoliceOxford University Press.

Lerner, V., Y. Finkelstein, and E. Witztum. The Enigma of Lenin’s (1870–1924) Malady. (2004). European Journal of Neurology. Vol. 11. pp. 371-6.

Lewis, O. (2007). How much did the Bolsheviks need the Cheka and how well did they make use of it? Retrieved from http://www.e-ir.info/2007/12/02/76/

Markevich, A.,Harrison, M .(2011). Great War, Civil War, and Recovery: Russia’s National Income, 1913 to 1928. Retrieved from

http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/staff/mharrison/public/jeh2011_postprint.pdf

Martin, M (1994). The Soviet Tragedy: A History of Socialism in Russia, 1917–1991. New York.

Pipes, R (1990). The Russian Revolution .Vintage.

Pipes, R. (1999). Unknown Lenin.Yale University Press.

Pipes, R. (2014). Lenin’s Gulag. Academic Research Journals.Vol. 2(6), pp. 140-146.

Rice, C. (1990). Lenin: Portrait of a Professional Revolutionary. London: Cassell.

Ryan,J .(2012). Lenin’s Terror. The Ideological Origins of Early Soviet State Violence, London and New York: Routledge.

Service, R. (2000). Lenin: A Biography.  Harvard University Press.

Stewart-Smith, D. G. (1964).The Defeat Of Communism. London: Ludgate Press Limited.

Suny , R.G.(1983).Toward a Social History of the October Revolution .The American Historical Review, Vol. 88, No. 1, pp. 31-52.

Vinters H, Lurie L, Mackowiak, P.A. (2013). Vessels of Stone: Lenin’s “circulatory disturbance of the brain”. Hum Pathol. 44(10):1967-72.

One Response to “V.I. Lenin: The Compulsive Revolutionary”

  1. Christie Says:

    Namaste: Thanks for a history of Lenin. This explains why our revolutionaries have at least two names. Socialist theory and practice in the island was planted and nurtured by the Indian colonial parasites and the non Indians followed the Indian colonial parasites blindly. We did not have or still have a Social structure that resembles Russian social structure where people were sold or given away as workers and farmers. Indians who planted Socialism in the minds of non Indians did it to focus our minds away from the wealthy Indian colonial parasites who run the country. We see our own who a bit wealthier than us as the Tsars our land. We fight and kill among ourselves but leave the Indian colonial parasites to bleed us for ever. Jai Hind.

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