“IT COULDN’T HAVE HAPPENED WITHOUT HIM, BUT HE COULDN’T HAVE DONE IT ALONE”—THE RUSSION REVOLUTION OF OCTOBER 1917
Lenin: The Man, The Dictator and the Master of Terror by Victor Sebestyen
A well-drawn biography, bringing to life not only the life and not only the facts of what happened but the personality and ethos of the driven and cruel leader. I think it’s clear the Bolshevik Revolution never would have happened the way it did without his incredible drive and focus and ability to overcome the views of others by rhetoric or by force when necessary. Yet, he never would have reached the position he did if it weren’t for some terrible weaknesses on the part of the Czar as a leader, and the decision to go into and continue participation in World War I. Lenin’s greatest fear was that the Social Democrats and then the Menshiviks would leave the war.
In fact, the Menshiviks were far stronger numerically than the Bolsheviks right up until October, but they didn’t have the force of the leader in Kerensky which Lenin represented.
Talk about unintended consequences. The U.S. and Britain and France worked hard to keep Russia in World War I. Little did they know the consequence of that temporary “success.” Germany, on the other hand, funneled a huge amount of money to the Bolsheviks and transported Lenin from Switzerland , where he had been in exile, to St. Petersburg on the eve of the October Revolution in order to help ensure Russia got out of the war, which they in quick order did, though not, of course, to Germany’s ultimate advantage since they lost anyway. Indeed, they lost both wars in a real sense since they had long been dedicated opponents of communism.
So much for the idea of one country’s interfering in a another country’s political affairs, so much in the news today. It has long been part of history. Just think of Iran in the 1950s or Nicaragua,
The depth of cruelty of man to man was never more evident than in this history. The way the Czar and his family were slaughtered, the reprisals against the attempted assassination of Lenin, which saw hundreds and thousands of people killed. One shakes their head at my age (or at any age) how people can be so cruel.
There are several graphic descriptions of Lenin which are so timeless that I wanted to cite them here:
“The public Lenin adopted a highly populist style of politics that would be recognizable—and imitated by many a rabble-rouser—a hundred years later, even in long-established, sophisticated democracies. He offered simple solutions to complex problems. He lied unashamedly. He was never a sparkling orator but he was brilliant at presenting a case in direct, straightforward language that anyone could understand. In explaining how the world could be changed if only people would listen to him…”
He spoke against the establishment, e.g., “The peasants must seize the estates from their former landowner masters. They must be masters now.”
“First, we must seize power. Then we decide what to do with it,” Lenin said to Trotsky in October 1917. He wanted power for its own sake, as egotists do. But he genuinely believed that he was going to use it to improve the lives of the majority of people. That is how he justified the lies and terror that followed.
Above all, the author writes, “Lenin was lucky in his enemy. In contrast to the Bolsheviks’ united leadership, the ‘whites’ were fragmented.” Their three armies were separated, their leaders refused to talk to each other. Here was a case where sheer willpower and the willingness to endorse any means, including mass murder, to achieve the outcome won the day.