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Bolshevik Revolution

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lenin-was-right

Communist Russophilia in all its glory.

I have some important work non-blog related tasks to do up until Nov 16 so there’ll be a temporary halt to my posts deconstructing the Red ideology, but rest assured that this important mission will be resumed.

Speaking of that. Recently met up with a couple of elderly relatives, the centenary of the Revolution came up. One is a Soviet nostalgic and pro-Leninist/Stalinist, as are most people of that generation, the other – a person in his 60s, blue-collar engineer background, even has the engineer’s trademark disdain for humanities education – started opining about the Brusilov offensive, that Russia should have won WW1, that Lenin was a traitorous scumbag, etc. This was shocking to the latter, though pleasantly surprising for myself. I should also stress that there was absolutely no prompting on my part (personally I try to avoid discussing the USSR with old people in Russia and the West alike), though as the debate got going, I did back him up .

What is the point of this anecdote? First, that there are people with all strongly anti-Bolshevik opinions in Russia, including in demographic groups you’d hardly expect it from. Second, that there are some people in my comments threads who are full of shit.

Moderation Note

Whining from certain quarters regardless, you really have to work pretty hard to get banned from my blog.

There have been a total of about a dozen such cases. Here’s a representative sample:

  • The person who keeps on spamming that shitty Holocaust denial forum
  • The person who believes that literally every Islamic terrorist attack is a CIA/Mossad/reptilian Illuminati false flag
  • The spammy Islamist
  • The Stalinist nutjob who made implicit legal threats against me

Anyhow, I am taking the possibly misguided decision of a total amnesty, and have temporarily scoured the entire list.

This doesn’t mean its going to be a free for all. I reserve the right to hide stupid/spammy comments under a <more> divider. I reserve the right to outright delete extremely stupid and/or spammy comments. And if necessary, I will start populating the ban list again.

Comment rules are here, to be enforced at my discretion – http://akarlin.com/comments/

Main

* Alexander Mercouris: Destabilising Saudi Arabia? Crown Prince consolidates control; eliminates rivals

I’ll write about Saudi Arabia in a separate post.

* Andrew Griffin, Max Benwell (Independent): Rogues of The Resistance: The liberal activists and conspiracy theorists who want to take down Trump

There’s that joke about the Jew who enjoyed reading Der Stürmer because it was so positive about Jewish achievements such as their control of all the banks and media. I admit I enjoy reading Louise Mensch and /r/politics for the same reason. It’s nice to fantasize about a world where ROG is real.

* Jose Ricon: Links (13)

* Ruin value. I suppose this makes it the architectural equivalent of the “live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse” philosophy.

Russia

chomsky-on-persecution-of-rt

Noam Chomsky interview from April 2015.

* RT forced to register as foreign agent by Monday.

Russia has promised retaliation, though it hasn’t specified what. It is possible that it will be something completely retarded, like blocking CNN and RFERL (which practically nobody in Russia visits anyway – and those few who do, are familiar with VPN).

Roskomnadzor says it’s also designed an extrajudicial system for blocking the websites of organizations labeled “undesirable” by the Justice Ministry.

If Russia was run by smart people, it would start denying visas to the more hostile Western journalists, like China does. This is effective, and deniable (can’t prove its on purpose). But I don’t expect that to start happening anytime soon.

* Paul Robinson: Interview with Mikhail Remizov

* This year’s Russian March in Moscow was broken up by OMON. What was a major spectacle regularly drawing ~10,000 vigorous right-wingers 5-10 years ago is now a rather sad affair with no more than ~500 people, most of whom belong to Maltev/Demushkin’s marginal pro-Ukraine, pro-NATO faction.

vishnevsky-russia-demographics-no-ussr

* Anatoly Vishnevsky: A demographic projection of Russia’s population in the 20th century (within current borders!) if no Bolshevism + WW2 [in Russian].

Around 280 million people (instead of 145 million), plus maybe 120 million Ukrainians and Belorussians = 400 million strong East Slavic superpower.

orwell-sovok

* Brilliant “Orwellization” of Lenin’s most slogan (via Оскал Империализма)

Bread is Prodrazverstka
Land is Collectivization
Peace is Civil War

World

* genby: A list of all (all 28) of North Korea’s websites. Another Communist success story.

Other

* YouGov poll: Germany tolerates men staring at breasts more than most

* Azeri success story:

 
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ryzhenko-zontik

Pavel Ryzhenko (2008): Umbrella.

The latest in our series of translations of Russian national-conservative intellectual Egor Kholmogorov, as promised.

In his latest article, published at Vzglyad, Kholmogorov demolishes twelve myths about the Bolshevik revolution, using a recent article by the Russian novelist Zakhar Prilepin as a foil. Why Prilepin? Who is he, anyway? You won’t find many mentions of him in the Western media, like you would of Vladimir Sorokin, Lyudmila Ulitskaya, or Dzerzhinsky admirer turned maniac Russophobe Svetlana Alexievich – writers that take a “handshakeworthy” anti-Russian stance. However, Zakhar Prilepin enjoys far more popular acclaim within Russia itself than any of those third rate entities – the only modern Russian literary authors comparable to him in eminence are Boris Akunin (historical mystery), Viktor Pelevin (satire), and Sergey Lukyanenko (sci-fi).

Part of the reason is Prilepin’s background. He has nothing to do with the Moscow intellentsia; he is the quintessential Russian redneck. Worked as a laborer, a security guard, and with the OMON riot police. Chechnya vet. Went into journalism in the 2000s, but found his true calling in artistic literature: Writing socially critical novels, typically about life in the Russian podunks (he himself hails from the rustbelt city of Nizhny Novgorod). Worst of all, he is a vatnik, a Communist (a National Bolshevik, to be precise), and a Donbass supporter. Most definitely not handshakeworthy – especially since he doesn’t exactly keep his politics on a backburner. Prilepin is also Chief Editor of Svobodnaya Pressa, an intelligent online journal and media success story that enjoys 15 million monthly visits (they even once translated one of my articles). He also pals around with DNR bigwigs and has even gathered a batallion for the War in the Donbass, though its more PR spectable than anything else.

As one of Russia’s leading “patriotic”/vatnik intellectuals, and one of the most authoritatative spokespersons for what Russian Neo-Stalinists actually think, a point by point critique of Prilepin’s apologia for the Bolshevik Revolution has value beyond just another recitation of Bolshevik crimes and hypocrisy (of which there is no shortage of anyway). Moreover, even if you substantively or wholly disagree with Egor Kholmogorov’s critique, I hope that this translation will at least help you get a better picture of the actual state of the debate about the Soviet legacy amongst normal Russians, beyond the banal (not to mention 90% wrong) Western representation of it as a binary struggle between a Stalinophile Kremlin and pro-Western liberals.

Translated by: Anatoly Karlin (intro to #5) and Fluctuarius Argenteus (#6-12).

Original: https://vz.ru/columns/2017/11/8/894324.html

***

Twelve Myths of the Bolshevik Revolution: A Conservative Refutation

The defense of Lenin and the Bolshevik regime in Zakhar Prilepin’s recent article is so representative of the genre that one can barely leave it uncommeted.

The Great October Revolution lies in ruins on its centenary. The essence of its defeat lies in that even the modest apologists for Bolshevism hardly ever cite their actual programs, slogans, and values. Nobody knows says that the Revolution opened the path to socialism and Communism all over the world, nobody expresses joy over the collapse of the bourgeoisie and the Tsar’s henchmen, and their replacement by a workers’ state. Nobody says that the light of atheism shone through the darkness of clerical obscurantism, nobody insists that the Bolseviks gave the land to the peasants, the factories to the workers, and peace to the people.

The justification of the October Revolution, of Bolshevism, and of Soviet power – in short, the entirety of Red apologetics – now occurs from within patriotic, nationalist, conspirological, populist, and even Christian Orthodox frameworks, all of which were mostly or entirely antithetical to the Communist value system itself. In practice, this consists of sophistic manipulations of Hegel’s “Cunning of Reason.” That is, the Bolsheviks wanted one thing, but something entirely different happened in reality, and it is actually this unconscious benefit which constitutes the real blessing of the revolution.

This form of apologetics was invented as early as the 1920s by the National Bolsheviks, from Ustryalov – who viewed Lenin as a patriot and a great stateman, and the Whites as agents of foreign powers in the form of the Entente – to Klyuev – who saw the Bolsheviks as liberators of the more authentic, pre-Petrine, “Kerzhen” Russia. But the value of all these apologetics was most poignantly demonstrated by the execution (Ustryalov, Klyuev) or imprisonment (Karsavin, Savitsky, Shulgin) of everyone who glorified Bolshevism through prisms other than Marxism-Leninism. Sure, the Bolsheviks were not averse to using smenovekhovstvo – the White emigres pushing for conciliation with the Soviet regime – for their own purposes, but they most assuredly did not subscribe to their vision of their historical mission as patriots, regatherers of the Russian lands, and custodians of the Russian state.

Why do people still bother with Red apologetics today?

Partly, on account of inflexibility. Russia in the 1990s was infested by ghouls, screeching that they had freed us from Lenin, the Communists, and the revolutionary heritage – which quietly freeing us of the contents of our pockets. And since this looting occured under the banner of anticommunism, it is no surprise that pro-Soviet discourse grew popular, since it, at least, did not brook this mass looting.

For all intents and purposes, Red apologetics was an apologetics for a social state; for public property, that had been created by the common labor of the Soviet people; for the Army, cosmonautics, the military-industrial complex, the Navy, the research centers, and so forth. And this was logical.

To my shame, there was a period, when I myself, despite never having imbibed the Leninist spirit, partook of similar activities. The most popular aspect of these apologetics was the Stalinist one – yes, the Revolution may have been horrific, but then came along Stalin and set everything right again…

But this train has passed. Russian society now faces new challenges, in which the political canonization of Bolshevism, Leninism, and Stalinism are not the friends, but the enemies, of our future.

And yet the Red people are still stuck in their polemics about Gaidar and Chubais. For instance, take the issue of creeping separatism in Tatarstan. It is impossible to solve it from a neo-Soviet position, because it was Lenin who created the Tatar ASSR and accomodated the Sultan-Galievs. The Ukraine, which demolished all its Lenin monuments, was his beloved child. In reality, regardless of which question we consider, appeals to the Soviet experience are block brakes on our future progress. It is either a false alternative to the liberal solution, or it is the liberal solution. Therefore, it is of no surprise that we are hearing increasingly Bolshevik overtones in the rhetoric of our liberal cliques, for example, in the matter of anti-clericalism. The Zyuganov era of traditionalist-friendly Communism is coming to its inevitable end, and is becoming displaced by a new era of Communist liberalism, which is hostile to the Russian traditional values that are held in equal contempt by both liberals and conventional Communists. [1]

It is precisely this form of apologetics that was advanced by Zakhar Prilepin in his recent article 12 Points about the Revolution and the Civil War. His defense of Lenin and the Bolshevik order is so representative that the urge to deconstruct it is irresistable, so that is what we shall do, point by consecutive point.

1. The Bolsheviks did not overthrow the Tsar – they overthrew the liberal-Westernist Provisional Government.

The Bolsheviks were the most categorical supporters of overthrowing the autocracy amongst all the Russian opposition parties. They excluded the possibility of keeping the monarchy even in a purely constitutional form; they were the most consistent republicans.

The Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party considers its immediate political task to be the overview of Tsarist autocracy and its replacement by a democratic republic,” read the program of the RSDRP accepted at its 2nd Congress, the very one where Lenin’s supporters constituted the majority, and henceforth came to be known as the Bolsheviks.

The Bolsheviks didn’t play a major role in the overthrow of the monarchy only because the party was still very weak as of February 1917.

But they more than compensated for this through their murder of the royal family, which, besides the innate abhorrence of the murder of the children and the servants, constituted the true overthrow of the Russian monarchy. As many historians and legal theorists have pointed out, the abdictation of Nicholas II in March 1917 was legally null and reversible, whereas death was final.

2. Prilepin, arguing that the Civil War between Whites and Reds was started by the Februarists (Kornilov, Alekseyev, Savinkov), poses this rhetorical question: “Do those who oppose Lenin and the Bolsheviks really believe that Russia would have been better off in the 20th century if it was governed by liberals, revolutionaries with a penchant for terrorism, and generals who broke their vows”?

Unfortunately, the majority of our readers are still not sufficiently familiar with the history of the anti-Bolshevik resistance, and might therefore be inclined to agree with this assertion. But that doesn’t make it correct.

The leaders, the real icons of the White movement – generals Drozdovsky, Markov, Kappel, Yudenich, Kutepov – were convinced monarchists. The only consistent republican amongst the leadership was Denikin. The position of Admiral Kolchak remains unclear.

The rest in one way or another expressed support for monarchy. Moreover, despite the dissatisfaction of Entente emissaries, the White movements continuously moved rightwards throughout the years of the Civil War towards a more definite monarchism, culminating in a Zemsky Sobor in Vladivostok in 1922.

General Kornilov: “I was never against the monarchy… I am a Cossack. A true Cossack cannot be anything but a monarchist.

General Alekseyev: “In the course of time Russia has to move towards a restoration of monarchy.

General Wrangel: “The Tsar must appear only when the Bolsheviks are vanquished.

Even the republican Denikin admitted that half of his Army consisted of monarchists.

But to honestly answer the question of whether it would have been better for Russia to be ruled by liberals, retired Social Revolutionary pyromaniacs, and turncoat generals in the 20th century, it is merely sufficient to pose the following questions:

“Would Savinkov, the terrorist Social Revolutionary, have implemented general collectivization, dekulakization, and the expulsion of people whose lands and property had been seized, into areas of permafrost, where they died of hunger?”

“Would Kornilov, the general who betrayed the monarchy, has created a system of concentration camps covering the entire country, where people would have been sent for telling a joke about himself, or for stealing a sheaf of wheat from one of Savinkov’s collective farms?”

“Would Kerensky, that undoubted leftist scoundrel, have issued orders blocking relief to the famine-stricken oblasts of Malorossiya, the Kuban, and the Volga, and instead barred their denizens from leaving the disaster zones?”

“Would Denikin, the republican, have signed off on lists of hundreds of names to be executed and approved the requests of local secret police HQs to raise the shooting quotas?”

“Would Milyukov, unrivalled in his liberal vulgarity, have closed churches, shot monks, priests, bishops, and hole fools, tear off crosses from children’s necks and open up holy relics for “examination”?”

An honest answer to these questions demonstrates how even a regime of incredibly odious Februarists was still far preferable to Bolshevik tyranny. Even the most authoritarian right-wing regimes are incomparable to leftist totalitarians in the scale of their repressions and destruction. Pinochet is not Pol Pot.

Furthermore, we can see why even the Februarists were preferable to Communist power by the example of the 1990s. In those years, the new Februarists encountered fierce political, ideological, and sometimes violent resistance from the national-patriotic forces. In the end, before a single decade passed, and Russian February ended, voluntarily surrending power to Putin, who began the process of state rebuilding. Why would the 1920s have been any different?

3. “Supporters of the idea that the Revolution was financed by German and British money should try to explain, first, whether they actually obtained the advantages they sought; and second, identify the goals that both pursued by intervening against Soviet Russia, if the Bolsheviks were indeed their agents.

Nobody ever suspected the Bolsheviks of acting in the interests of the Entente. It is the Februarists, overthrown by the Bolsheviks, who were probably English agents, whereas Lenin and his colleagues are, not without justification, seen as German agents.

There were no even minimally significant clashes between the Bolsheviks and the German Army, which occupied a large portion of Russia under the Brest Peace. Lenin and his government was absolutely loyal to Germany up to the last day of the Hohenzollern monarchy, with tremendous benefits to the German war effort – a large part of the Army was freed from the Eastern Front and hurled west instead, helped along by food supplies from the Ukraine.

You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Lenin was most scrupulous about keeping his side of the German contract, up to and including pressuring even his own party to ratify the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. It is sufficient to recall that on March 1, 1918 the Bolsheviks matter of factly surrendered Kiev, liberated from the Petlyurites on February 8 as a result of a workers’ uprising.

The enduring nature of the Bolshevik-German alliance is testified to by its quick resurrection under Germany’s new republican rulers, despite them having suppressed all attempts to seize power by Moscow-backed Cominternists.

4. “When discussing the exile of part of the aristocracy from Russia, and its replacement by “cooks and bandits,” as some of us say, it is worth recalling, that Lenin, too, was a noble, as were many of the most prominent Bolshevik figures and leaders of the party” [there follows a discussion of the noble descent of Lenin, Ordzhonikidze, Mayakovsky, and even the Chekist, Gleb Bokii].

There is nothing new about some members of the aristocracy defecting to anti-aristocratic movements. One can cite many other historical examples, from Pericles in Ancient Athens to Philippe I, Duke of Orléans.

The list of names mentioned by Prilepin himself show that the numbers of noblemen amongst the leaders of the Bolsheviks was negligibly small (especially when your exclude Polish nobles such as Dzerzhinsky, who hated everything Russian and were considered revolutionaries a priori in the Russian Empire).

Moreover, the degree of Lenin’s noble stock shouldn’t be exaggerated; his father, Ilya Ulyanov, was the son of a petty bourgeois, and only acquired the rank permitting him to pass on his noble status seven years after Vladimir’s birth.

Relations between the Bolsheviks and the nobility was determined not by individual relationships, but by the political philosophy of Bolshevism, the essence of which was class war – and the nobility, just like the priesthood, the bourgeioisie, and well-to-do peasants peasants were seen as class enemies, destined for destruction.

5. “75,000 former Tsarist officers served in the Red Army (62,000 of whom were of noble origin), whereas the Whites only attracted 35,000 of the 150,000 officer corps of the Russian Empire.

Prilepin’s numbers are an arbitrary fiction concocted by the Soviet researcher Alexander Kavtaradze in the book Military Specialists in the Service of the Soviet Republic 1917-1920. His speculations were refuted in Sergey Volkov’s ground-breaking research manuscript The Tragedy of the Russian Officers.

Kavtaradze arbitrarily sums up completely different categories, such as:

1. The 8,000 officers who voluntarily signed up with the Bolsheviks to participate in the “curtain forces” shielding Russia from German forces in the spring of 1918. These were men who wanted to continue fighting the German enemy, but were betrayed by the Bolsheviks, and subsequently, a signifcant number of them left the Red Army, or even joined up with the Whites.

2. The 48,000 former officers conscripted into the Red Army from 1918-2020, often coercively.

3. The 14,000 imprisoned White officers, who entered the Red Army to save their own life. These former officers constituted around a quarter to a third of the command of the Red Army, but their percentage steadily declined, since the Bolsheviks didn’t trust the Tsarist military experts.

It also a manipulation to put the numbers of the officers corps of the Russian Empire at 150,000. That was the number of officers in the active Army, whereas the numbers given as serving the Bolsheviks included all officers, regardless of where they were in 1918 – in the rear, in hospital, etc. According to Volkov’s calculations, the size of the Russian officer corps was 276,000 at the end of 1917. Consequently, less than a quarter of all Russian officers ended up serving the Reds.

For comparison, there were 170,000 officers who took part in the White movement, of whom 55,000 died in the Civil War, and a similar number of whom ended up in the emigration.

So you still want to talk about how the cooks and bandits deceived and defeated the wonderful, blue-blooded Russian nobles, who didn’t at all renege on their oaths to the Emperor?” asks Prilepin.

The quality of the officers who went to the Bolsheviks should be discussed separately.

The Russian Army command could be separated into two main groups by 1917.

The first group were the cadre officers of the Imperial Army, like Roschin in The Road to Calvary by Alexey Tolstoy. This category was seriously depleted by the war, especially in its early stages, which predetermined the discipline crisis in the Imperial Army.

The second group constituted officers produced by the exingencies of wartime, such as the poet Nikolay Gumilev and Alexander Blok, Telegin from the aforementioned Road to Calvary, the notorious ensign Nikolay Krylenko, etc. These people were, essentially, ordinary intellectuals in epaulettes, neither from military families nor possessing serious military training.

General Gurko spoke with distain about the “clerks and bathhouse attendants” turned officers. A significant part of them, ensigns, didn’t differ much from ordinary soldiers, and from the civilians, whose ranks they had recently withdrawn from. The vast majority of Red officers came from this group, while cadre officers constituted no more than 6% of the command.

Wikipedia currently lists 385 Tsarist generals who served in the Red Army. For comparison, there were close to 4,000 generals in the Imperial Russian Army in 1916, and even more by the end of 1917. No more than 10% of the generals went on to serve in the Red Army.

There were practically no top-level commanders from the First World War; for the most part they were either staff generals (Mikhnevich, Manikovsky, Zayonchkovsky), or dashing colonels, who got their high ranks in the war. Even more telling is that the Bolsheviks did not entrust these generals with indepenent command, instead using them more as as specialist consultants, and surrounding them with commissars. One rare exception was major-general Vladimir Olderogge, who finished off Kolchak’s army in Siberia in 1919.

However, the ultimate fate of most of the Tsarist generals and officers who went to serve the Bolsheviks is even more germane.

They were destroyed in 1931 in the Vesna case, fabricated by the OGPU. A total of 3,000 people were arrested, and many of them – including the aforementioned Olderogge – were shot. In 1937-38, those who had hitherto received only prison sentences were also shot: The great military theorist Svechin, generals Sytin, Verkhovsky, Morozov…

Consequently, we come to the following conclusion: Either the Soviets inducted enemies into the Red Army, who served it insincerely; or the Bolsheviks deliberately destroyed the officers and generals who believed them and chose to serve them out of their love for the Motherland.

6. “The Civil War was unleashed by the Whites…

The first event of the Civil War in Russia was the Bolshevik coup in Petrograd and Moscow that included such acts as the shelling of the Kremlin – that is, an usurpation of power.

Apparently, the author assumes that all citizens of the former Russian Empire had to accept the usurpation simply because some Congress of the Soviets in the capital proclaimed the transfer of power to something called the Sovnarkom.
If every usurper has the right to unconditional submission, then Major Prilepin is out of place in the Donetsk People’s Republic military. By his own logic, they are typical mutineers who failed to accept the self-proclaimed régime in Kiev and “unleashed” a war by refusing to submit to Maidan usurpers.

Fourteen (14!) foreign countries intervened in the Civil War – and, in this situation, blaming its victims on Bolshevism alone is utter hogwash.

Painting the Bolsheviks as Russia’s defenders against intervention is an old propaganda stunt.

The Entente intervention sought to contain the consequences of their largest ally’s withdrawal from the Great War, then in full swing, and the signing of a separate peace treaty by its usurper government.

Neither Britain nor France nor the US sought to annex a part of Russian territory or overthrow the Bolsheviks by military force (however successful those attempts could have been), and lent a very scanty aid to the anti-Bolshevik resistance while being very assertive in demanding gold in exchange for said aid.

In Spring 1919, the Entente decided to completely cease all military intervention in the Russian Civil War. None of the different “interventions” ever posed any credible threat to the Bolshevik régime.

7. “The first pieces of legislation adopted by the Bolsheviks after their rise to power had nothing repressive in their nature. The Bolsheviks came as unprecedented idealists, liberators of the people, and democrats in the best sense of the word”.

On October 27th (November 9th New Style), the Soviets promulgated the Decree of the Press, its fourth decree up to that date.

It justified and introduced criteria for a repressive crackdown on all “bourgeois” press outlets by the Sovnarkom. They were three in total: calling for “a n open resistance or disobedience to the Government of Workers and Peasants” (i.e., when a legitimate government refuses to defer to usurpers); attempts at “fomenting dissent via grossly obvious perversions of fact” (i.e., any information the Bolsheviks deemed unfavorable to their cause); and calling for “acts of patently criminal or felonious nature” (i.e., given that no Penal Code existed at the moment, acts of any nature the Sovnarkom didn’t like).

Over November and December, the preaching of violence in Soviet acts intensified: confiscation of private printing presses and reserves of paper (November 17th, this and the following dates New Style); state monopoly on public notices (November 20th); demands for arrest and trial “by the revolutionary court of the people” for anyone deemed “harmful to the people’s cause” (November 18th); explicit ban on direct and intermediary negotiations with the “leaders of the counterrevolutionary insurrection” (December 8th); arrest warrant for the leadership of Constitutional Democrats branded as the “party of the enemies of the people” (December 11th).
So much for “democrats in the best sense of the word”.

8. “Faced with an impeding collapse of the Empire collapsing and separatist movements at its fringes, the Bolsheviks immediately shifted their tactics and rapidly reassembled the Empire, only permanently losing Finland and Poland, whose being a part of Russia is even now seen as irrelevant and superfluous anyway. The Bolsheviks have done nothing to merit the title of “wreckers of the Empire” – even if they called their offensive campaigns “internationalist”, their result was a traditional Russian territorial expansion.

The Bolshevik Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples of Russia, eulogized by Prilepin, explicitly allows for a “right of nations within Russia to free self-determination, including seceding and creating an independent state.

It turns out that Bolsheviks were typical hypocrites – when different nations actually tried to use the rights they were entitled to, they immediately “shifted their tactics” and turned to “territorial expansion”. Seems very familiar in the light of how the Bolsheviks treated all other human rights.

And, of course, the Bolsheviks did not expand to any territory in the end.

By the time the Civil War ended in the Russian Far East, they had lost the Baltics, Western Ukraine, and Western Belarus, ceded to Poland by the Riga peace treaty, as well as Bessarabia, annexed by Romania. Stalin took all of this back in 1939, no thanks to Bolshevism but thanks to World War II and a deal with Hitler (and none of this, save several districts transferred from Estonia and Latvia, was added to the territory of Soviet Russia proper).

The territory that got misplaced on the road to Communism included even the Uriankhai Krai (now the Tuva Republic), only reintegrated in 1944. Permanent losses included regions of Western Armenia ceded by 1921 Moscow and Kars treaties to “our friend Kemal”: Kars, many times washed by the blood of Russian soldiers, and Mount Ararat.

After recognising Finland’s independence, Lenin, in a gesture of largesse, gave up Vyborg, conquered by Peter the Great from the Swedes.
In 1940, Vyborg returned to Russia only thanks to Marshal Mannerheim. His obstinate resistance to Soviet forces caused Stalin to abandon plans for a puppet Democratic Republic of Finland led by Otto Kuusinen. Instead of signing a treaty with the puppet state, voluntarily ceding a good half of Karelia and drawing the border south of Vyborg, the Soviet Union was forced to sign a full-fledged peace treaty with harsh conditions.

The Soviets did exactly zilch in terms of expanding Russian territory until the very capture of Lvov during Stalin’s “liberation campaign” against Poland. However, Lvov would have become a part of the Russian Empire anyway had the Tsar not been deposed. Under Stalin, Lvov became a poisoned gift that contaminated the Ukraine with the most radical strain of nationalism.

9. “Point one: there’s no Tsar. Point two: there are only White generals who are mostly okay with divvying up the country. And there are Bolsheviks who are against this divvying up.

Eulogizing about Leninist national and territorial policy is a particularly arduous affair for Prilepin. He resorts to parroting the Liberal thesis of “all empires are bound to collapse” and appealing to a treaty between Britain and France regarding the “partition of zones of influence in Russia”.

Let’s start with an outright hoax. The Whites were fighting for a united and indivisible Russia. This was the chief slogan and the main goal of the White movement. Gens. Kolchak, Denikin, and Wrangel alike were adamantly against recognizing any separatist statelets that had sprung up in the territory of the Russian Empire.

As has been said, treating a British-French agreement signed on December 23rd 1917 and establishing zones of responsibility of Entente powers in the South of Russia, with the Great War still ongoing, as a “partition of Russia between Britain and France”, is entirely baseless.

The author may fulminate against the idea of Bolshevism as the culprit that had planted the bomb under Russian territorial unity as much as he wishes to. But nothing can be done to disprove the fact that the Bolsheviks established a “Kyrgyz Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic” in 1925, rechristened the Kazakh Republic in 1925, its capital until that year having been Orenburg. Such was the revenge of the Bolsheviks against the Orenburg Cossack Host for their resistance. That Russian city having been transferred away from Kazakhstan and back to Russia is nothing short of a miracle. Many other parts of Southern Siberia were much less lucky.

The Soviets, everywhere they could reach, created republics with a right to autonomy and secession, created “titular ethnicities” [2], granted them development funds, constructed their histories and gave them Latin-based writing systems (something reattempted by Nursultan Nazarbayev with much fanfare). [3] Terry Martin’s study The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939 is a terrific analysis of this process.

Mykhailo Hrushevsky, the founding father of Ukrainian separatism, came to enact in his capacity as President of the Ukrainian Soviet Academy of Sciences more than he ever could dream of as President of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, – turning millions of Little Russian peasants into “Ukrainians”.

Ukrainization was a central policy of the Soviets in 1920s – 1930s and never ceased completely in later eras. Indeed, Stalin did dampen those processes somewhat (even though he upgraded Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Karelia-Finland from autonomies to full-fledged Soviet republics, the latter fortunately abolished by Khrushchev), but they never stopped for the entirety of the Soviet régime.

Finally, the artificial borders chartered by Communists exploded in 1991 thanks to Liberals.

Who is to blame for falling to the ground – the one who laboriously sawed the chair’s legs or the one who carelessly parked his rear end on its seat?

10. “They say Patriarch Tikhon anathematized the Bolsheviks, and that’s why one cannot support them. But neither did he bless or endorse the White movement.

The Patriarch did not anathematize the Bolsheviks, only those who enacted cruel persecutions against the Church and Orthodox Christians, those who murdered priests, robbed churches, stripped decorations from icons, desecrated holy vessels, and so on.

However, he did censure Bolsheviks proper in his epistle dated October 13th (26th) 1918, and his words are a dreadful argument against Prilepin himself:

Our great Motherland is conquered, diminished, and dismembered, and, as a tribute imposed upon her, you secretly send to Germany the gold that doesn’t belong to you.

No one feels safe anymore. Everyone lives in constant fear of searches, robbery, eviction, arrest, and execution. Innocents are taken by the hundred, tortured in prisons for months, often put to death with no trial or jury, even an expedited trial that you introduced.

The executions affect not only those guilty before you in some way but even those who are patently blameless but taken as “hostages”. Those unfortunates are murdered as a revenge for crimes enacted by people who not only don’t have opinions similar to theirs but also support you or have convictions comparable to yours.

First, under the name of “bourgeoisie”, you robbed well-to-do people; then, under the name of “kulaks”, you turned to robbing richer and more diligent peasants, thus multiplying poverty, even though you must realize that, by ruining a great multitude of individual citizens, you destroy public wealth and lead the entire country to destitution.

In this context, it seems that the point of whether the Patriarch, taken hostage by the Bolsheviks and subject to constant mortal danger, supported the Whites or not is moot.

11. “The Bolsheviks nationalized the industries, harming the interests of large-scale capitalists by siding with those of the laborers. The class most interested in the Civil War were, metaphorically speaking, the Russian Forbes 500…

The identity of the laborers that the Bolsheviks sided with is rather unclear. Were they factory workers doomed to several years of devastation, famine, and non-functional plants? Or peasants, anguishing from the terror of Prodrazvyorstka and Kombeds [4] and later rising up in the Tambov rebellion [5] (and many others), suffocated with chemical weapons?

When the “exploiters” were in charge, Russian economy grew by 8% a year; it took the Soviets more than a decade to reach its 1913 levels.

Regarding the “Russian Forbes 500”: with the exception of Russia’s richest man Nikolay Vtorov, murdered in 1918 in Moscow under suspicious circumstances, the others emigrated and saw the twilight of their years in Paris or Monaco. In the 1920s, Mikhail Tereshchenko’s 127-meter yacht, the Iolanthe, was the world’s largest yacht afloat.

Meanwhile, the living standards of the proletariat liberated from the yoke of capitalists and Tsarist social legislation was graphically described by poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, the chief panegyrist of Bolshevism: “Workers sitting in the dark, munching on damp bread.”

This was all peanuts compared to what came next: a system of forced labor, the main know-how of Stalinist industrialisation. Having no means of concentrating enough capital to fulfil his 5-year plan, Comrade Stalin found an elegant solution – dumping the costs of the other industrial factor, labor itself, to near zero.

For the first time in history, the world saw a modern industrialisation based on slave labor. The Bolsheviks were successful in annihilating private capital. The state remained the sole capitalist. And it was the state, not individual businessmen, who conducted negotiations with workers, with the barrel of an NKVD pistol as its ultima ratio.

While their comrades in both Europe and America successfully campaigned for better wages and welfare and formed the system of the social state, Russian workers spent decades in slave-like conditions and deemed themselves lucky if they weren’t converted from slaves of the 5-year plan to bondsmen of the Gulag.

12. “The main victor of the Civil War was the Russian people. The Russian Revolution of November 7th 1917 is an achievement, a victory, and a tragedy of the Russian nation. It is fully responsible for it, and has every right to be proud of this momentous achievement that changed the course of world history.

I won’t contest that the Russian people emerged victorious from the Civil War. If many, all too many Russians hadn’t thrown their lot with Bolshevism, either actively or by submission, no Latvian riflemen or Chinese volunteers could have led Lenin and his gang to victory.

The Russians, however, won a victory over themselves and their kin who dared to side with honor, God’s truth, and a tormented Fatherland, the united and indivisible Russia. This victory led all who kowtowed before Bolshevism to decades of poverty, terror, slavery, and Kafkaesque everyday life. Their only daily consolation was the hope of suffering for the greater good, a Grand Project.

No one reminded those people that only recently Tsarist Russia had completed one of the most astounding projects in the history of mankind, the transcontinental Trans-Siberian railway. It was achieved with no waste or exhaustion, no payment of tens of thousand of human lives for an infrastructural breakthrough.

Every human community, including the Russians, has a basic set of values and goals. Spiritual: spreading its worldview and faith, bolstering its national character and original creativity in national culture. Material: increasing the welfare of the nation and expanding their numbers. (Geo)political: increasing its national habitat and the security of its borders.

The Russians failed to achieve any of those goals over the 20th century as a direct consequence of the Bolshevik coup.

The Russian Orthodox Church endured a most savage persecution that put it on the brink of extinction. The originality of Russian culture was forcibly erased, having just reached its fin de siècle apex. Russians were subjected to decades of horrific poverty, terror, and famine, falling into a demographic abyss of enormous proportions.

The Bolshevik period ended with a rapid contraction of Russian borders, a reduction of Russian habitat, and our people turned, even within Russia itself, into second-grade citizens.

If this passes as a victory, then our goal is not to triumph over ourselves in this fashion once again.

Translator’s Notes

[1] This entire paragraph does not appear in the Vzglyad text, but did appear in Kholmogorov’s original draft. I considered it too good not to translate and publish anyway. – AK

[2] A semi-official term for ethnic groups whose name coincided with the name of an autonomy of a full-fledged republic in both the USSR and modern Russia (even though they weren’t/aren’t necessarily the most populous ethnicity), e.g. Kazakhs in Kazakhstan, Ukrainians in the Ukraine, Bashkirs in Bashkortostan, etc. Most of the time, the “titular” ethnicity was/is given the largest leeway possible by the central Soviet/Russian government.

[3] Reference to a recent decree of the Kazakh President proclaiming the shift the Kazakh alphabet from Cyrillic- to Latin-based , to be completed by 2025.

[4] The Prodrazvyorstka was a Soviet policy of forceful grain confiscation, formally reimbursed with a nominal fee much lower than the market price, leading to mass pauperization of peasants and famine. Kombeds (Poor Peasants’ Committees) were organs of Soviet power in rural settlements, mostly charged with enacting said policy.

[5] A 1920-21 peasant insurrection in the Volga region caused by mass grain requisitions and other forms of Soviet-sanctioned abuse, leaving more than 200,000 civilians dead. Often claimed as the first documented use of chemical weapons in internal conflict.

 
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lenin

There is a general consensus that Stalin was a sadistic tyrant. But the ghost of his predecessor remains “handshakeworthy” on the left hand side of the political spectrum. The SWPLy bobos of Seattle, who would not have been long for the Communist world, erected a statue to him in the city center. The New York Times “celebrated” the centenary of the Russian Revolution with odes to the Bolsheviks’ progressivism on the environment, sex, and race (not that Terell J. Starr with his strange ideas of how the USSR “centered the Russian slav” would appreciate it).

Westerners, at least, have a good excuse for subscribing to the self-serving Trotskyite belief that Stalin “betrayed” Lenin’s revolution – after all, the bacillus that Germany unleashed upon Russia during its moment of weakness and disarray did more than anyone else to derail De Tocqueville’s prophesy and ensure that the 20th century would be an exclusively American one.

And yet, as of the centenary of Red October, 56% of Russians – up from 40% in 2006 – maintained a positive view of the grandfather of this dismal experiment. To this day, Lenin’s pyramid-like tomb occupies the center of Moscow, the heart of Russia, as if he was a Pharaoh of old – though perhaps that is ironically appropriate, in light of his zealous drive to drag Russia into the Communist future instead depositing it in a world with the ethical norms of the 3rd millennium BC.

There is thus no better and no more urgent time to consign the “Communist fable of a Lenin supposedly gentler than Stalin” (as Stephen Kotkin put it) to its well-deserved place in the dustbin of history.

Who was Lenin?

The brother of a terrorist. In the totalitarian state that he built, which operated by blood guilt, this would have been as good as a death sentence. Fortunately for Lenin, he lived in the Russian Empire, not the USSR.

Lenin’s “administrative exile” to Siberia – a rite of passage for Russian revolutionaries – might as well have been a holiday. He brought along his mother, wife, and even hired a maid to keep house (how bourgeois). He whiled away his time in Siberia fishing, hunting, and corresponding with other revolutionaries. Needless to say, consequent Siberian vacations would not be near as fun for the 3,777,380 people convicted under the Soviet “counter-revolutionary” articles implemented under Lenin and his successors from 1921-53.

A student who never finished university, a lawyer who never plied his trade. After Siberia, he would spend most of the next seventeen years in European exile, writing articles for low-circulation journals that alternated between rehashing Marx and Engels, engaging in disputes with fellow Marxists who were famous in narrow circles, and penning bromides against “reactionary” Russia from the comfort of London and Geneva, much like latter day liberal Bolsheviks such as Garry Karparov and Ilya Ponomarev today.

Supported and inspired terrorist attacks on Russian police and state bureaucrats. Around 4,500 Tsarist officials were murdered just in 1905-1907. Bolshevik propaganda about “Bloody Nikolashka” aside, only around 6,321 people were executed for all offenses (including purely criminal ones, like murder) in the Russian Empire from 1825-1917. The Red Terror that Lenin would unleash in response to the assassination of just one Bolshevik functionary would claim two orders of magnitude more lives.

Zealotry aside, Lenin wouldn’t be Lenin without a side dish in treason.

Supported Japan in the Russo-Japanese at the 3rd Congress of the RSDRP.

From an article in January 1905:

The proletariat is hostile to the bourgeoisie and all aspects of the bourgeois order, but his hostility does not absolve him from the duty of differentiating between historically progressive and reactionary representatives of the bourgeoisie. It is entirely understandable that the more consistent and decisive representatives of international revolutionary Social Democracy, Jules Guesde in France and Hyndman in England, expressed without reservation their sympathies towards Japan, for its role in destroying Russian autocracy.

On the outbreak of World War I, Lenin happened to be in Krakow, where he was arrested by the Austro-Hungarian authorities as an “enemy alien.” Fortunately, an Austrian socialist leader was there to vouch for him, assuring them that he was no spy, but a “bitter enemy” of Russia and a proponent of Ukrainian separatism. He was dispatched to Switzerland in early September, where he would continue scribbling away.

Letter to Shlyapnikov, 1914:

For us Russians, from the point of view of the laboring masses and the working class of Russia, there can be absolutely no doubt that the lesser evil would be the defeat of Tsarism in this war. For Tsarism is 100 times worse than Kaiserism.

Article in “Social Democrat,” March 1915:

The only correct proletarian slogan is to transform the present imperialist war into a civil war. This transformation flows from all the objective conditions of the current military disaster, and only by systematically propagandising and agitating in that direction can the workers’ parties fulfil the obligations they undertook at Basle. That is the only kind of tactics that will be truly revolutionary working-class tactics, corresponding to the conditions of the new historical epoch.

Article in “Social Democrat”, November 1916:

Whatever the outcome of this war, it is those who say that the only possible socialist way out of it is through a civil war of the proletariat for socialism, who will be proven right. It is those Russian Social Democrats, who said that the defeat of Tsarism and its complete military destruction is the lesser evil.

Letter to Suvarin, December 1916:

Our party has rejected Tolstoy’s teachings, and pacifism, by proclaiming that socialists must work to turn the current war into a civil war of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie.

But he was growing despondent: In January 1917, he told a socialist gathering that “we old-timers may not live to see the decisive battles of the coming revolution.”

Fortunately for Lenin, he got a big break with the February Revolution, the elite led coup against the Tsarist regime. Soon after, the Germans arranged for him, along with other Bolshevik activists, to be transported to Russia in a “sealed train” (actually sealed in propaganda only; in practice, there were plenty of stop-overs). It is worth noting that the guy who arranged this, the German Communist Fritz Platten, also tried to enlist Socialist Revolutionary exiles for the purpose of destabilizing Russian. To their credit, none of them accepted, not wishing to be associated with Lenin’s overt treason.

Once he was in Russia, Lenin began to implement his program of “revolutionary defeatism.” First proposed at the Zimmerwald Peace Conference in 1915, publication of the doctrine was squashed by the German Foreign Office, on the fear that its contents would let the Okhrana justify mass arrests of Russian socialists. This didn’t sway Lenin from repeating it in his April Theses, whose slogan “down with the war” and call for the abolition of the Russian Army was so radical than even the Bolsheviks’ newspaper, Pravda, initially refused to print it.

All this was sustained in large part thanks to German money. In 1917, a grand total of around 50 million gold marks were transferred to Lenin’s party in Petrograd (this translates to an amzing $1 billion in today’s currency). This helped fund the Bolshevik printing presses, and there are numerous accounts of money being handed out for protests against the Provisional Government throughout 1917 (all standard features of modern color revolutions). This was all done with the firm knowledge that the Bolsheviks served the interests of Germany. Parvus, aka Israel Gelfand, said in a meeting with the German ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in 1915, “The interests of the German Imperial Government are identical with those of the Russian revolutionaries.” The second key intermediary, Alexander Kesküla, was a one-time socialist who had become a hardcore Estonian nationalist; his motivations for working with Germany were, in his words, simple: “Hatred of Russia.”

To Lenin belongs the dubious honor of carrying out the world’s first color revolution, and its color was red.

map-russia-constituent-assembly-election-1917

Source: @welections
Russian Constituent Assembly election, 1917: Brown = Social Revolutionaries; Red = Bolsheviks; Green = Regional SR’s; Yellow = Local parties.

Rejected the results of the last democratic election in Russian history until 1990 because he didn’t like that the Bolsheviks only won 24.5% of the vote.

Any direct or indirect attempt to consider the Constituent Assembly from a formally legalistic point of view, from within the framework of bourgeois democracy, without taking into account the class struggle or civil war, is treason against the proletariat and a defection to the worldview of the bourgeoisie. It is the duty of revolutionary Social Democracy to warn everybody against this error, which a considerable number of Bolshevik leaders are prone to, apparently unable to properly assess the October Revolution and the tasks before the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Even Rosa Luxemburg, criticizing Lenin for his ultra-liberal attitudes towards small nationalisms, pointed out the irony:

One is immediately struck with the obstinacy and rigid consistency with which Lenin and his comrades struck to this slogan, a slogan which is in sharp contradiction to their otherwise outspoken centralism in politics as well as to the attitude they have assumed towards other democratic principles. While they showed a quite cool contempt for the Constituent Assembly, universal suffrage, freedom of press and assemblage, in short, for the whole apparatus of the basic democratic liberties of the people which, taken all together, constituted the “right of self-determination” inside Russia, they treated the right of self-determination of peoples as a jewel of democratic policy for the sake of which all practical considerations of real criticism had to be stilled. While they did not permit themselves to be imposed upon in the slightest by the plebiscite for the Constituent Assembly in Russia, a plebiscite on the basis of the most democratic suffrage in the world, carried out in the full freedom of a popular republic, and while they simply declared this plebiscite null and void on the basis of a very sober evaluation of its results, still they championed the “popular vote” of the foreign nationalities of Russia on the question of which land they wanted to belong to, as the true palladium of all freedom and democracy, the unadulterated quintessence of the will of the peoples and as the court of last resort in questions of the political fate of nations.

In other words, a German Communist revolutionary, in practice, cared more for Russia’s territorial integrity and the democratic viewpoints of the Russian people than the man whose statues still dot the expanses of the Russian Federation.

In effect capitulated to Germany at Brest-Litovsk, ceded massive territories without military need, and betrayed Russia’s war allies.

map-russia-plans-ww1

What could have been: Map of the “Future Europe” (not like Wilhelm II would have liked it!)

As Winston Churchill wrote in his book The World Crisis (1916-1918):

Surely to no nation has Fate been more malignant than to Russia. Her ship went down in sight of port. She had actually weathered the storm when all was cast away. Every sacrifice had been made; the toil was achieved. Despair and Treachery usurped command at the very moment when the task was done.

Talk of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

In December 1917, set up the Cheka. At the outset, they were predominantly staffed by non-Russians – mostly Latvians – headed by the Pole Felix Dzerzhinsky.

Anecdote about Dzerzhinsky: Before the war, he managed to get beaten up by Polish factory workers, whom he had tried to agitate against the Tsar. There must be some kind of achievement trophy for that level of fail.

But the Cheka was another matter, and no laughing matter.

In August 1918, the Cheka’s Petrograd head Moisei Uritsky was assassinated. The killer, incidentally, was one of history’s forgotten heroes, Leonid Kannegisser, who explained his motives thus:

I am a Jew. I killed a Jewish vampire, who drank Russian blood. I wanted to show the Russian people that to Uritsky wasn’t a Jew to us. He was a renegade. I killed him in the hopes of redeeming the good name of Russian Jews.

One successful assassination and one attempted assasination against Lenin was enough to kickstart the Red Terror.

The famous August 11, 1918 cable to the Communists in Penza:

Comrades! The insurrection of five kulak districts should be pitilessly suppressed. The interests of the whole revolution require this because ‘the last decisive battle’ with the kulaks is now under way everywhere. An example must be demonstrated.

  1. Hang (and make sure that the hanging takes place in full view of the people) no fewer than one hundred known landlords, rich men, bloodsuckers.
  2. Publish their names.
  3. Seize all their grain from them.
  4. Designate hostages in accordance with yesterday’s telegram.

Do it in such a fashion that for hundreds of kilometres around the people might see, tremble, know, shout: “they are strangling, and will strangle to death, the bloodsucking kulaks”.

Telegraph receipt and implementation.

Yours, Lenin.

Find some truly hard people

Whereas previously, mass shootings had numbered in the dozens at most, they would now climb into the thousands, once Sovnarkom authorized mass terror on September 5th. The repressions would now directly affect even other leftist groups. Local Soviets were to arrest all Social Revolutionaries, take hostages from the families of Tsarist officers, and summarily execute anyone suspected of involvement in White Guard activities.

Though statistics are much harder to come by than in the better documented Stalinist period, it is plausible that around one million Russians were killed in the Red Terror – two orders of magnitude more than what the Russian Empire was responsible in the preceeding century, and entirely comparable to the victims of Stalinism.

With zero economic education outside regurgitating Marx and Engels, Lenin implemented war communism.

Within a year, an Empire with one of the world’s highest economic growth rates became a desert, where those who could, fled, and those who could not, died of hunger and typhus. Even amidst the instability of two revolutions, industrial production had remained at 80% during 1917 relative to 1913 figures; it plummeted to around 10% by 1920, as the Bolsheviks confiscated everything from banks and factories to ordinary people’s windmills, workshops, apartments, and private savings. You have a complaint? Justice system now consists of black-leather jacketed thugs that operate on hostage taking and mass shootings. Good luck suing them.

Despite not performing a single day’s worth of “productive” work in his life, Lenin loved to call all sorts of people parasites. For instance, those well-known exploiters, peasants.

From a speech in November 1919:

Peasants do not all understand that free trade in bread is a state crime. “I made bread, this is my product, and I have the right to trade with them,” the peasant argues, out of antiquated habit. But we say that this is a state crime. Free trade in grain means enrichment thanks to this bread – this is a return to old capitalism, we will not allow this, we will fight this at any price.

The death toll of war communism: 5-10 million deaths, a number that is once again entirely comparable to the Stalinist famines of the early 1930s (5-7 million) and 1946-47 (1 million), and again, an order of magnitude worse than the worst famine of the Russian Empire in 1891-92 (500,000 victims).

The ruthless grain requisitions (prodrazvyorstka) provoked the Tambov uprising, which the Bolsheviks crushed with the use of poison gas and concentration camps. Upwards of 200,000 deaths.

Finally, it would be amiss to speak of Lenin’s legacy without mentioning his attitude towards Russia and Russians in the widest sense of the word.

Although formally Russian, Lenin was in reality the métis par excellence: Around 1/4 German-Swedish, 1/4 Jewish, 1/4 Russian, and 1/4 token ethnic minority (Kalmyk).

Come to think of it – remarkably representative of 20th century Communism.

In that respect, it is perhaps of little surprise that the state he founded was based on a rather pecular mixture of socialist and nationalist principles.

From On the Question of the Nationalities, 1922:

Therefore internationalism on the part of the oppressing or so-called “great” nation (although it is great only in violence, great only as a gendarme is) must consist not only in observing formal equality of nations but also in such inequality as would be compensation by the oppressing nation, the big nation, for that inequality which actually takes shape in life. …

In these circumstances it is very natural that the “freedom to leave the union,” with which we justify ourselves, will prove to be just a piece of paper incapable of protecting people of other nationalities from the incursion of that the true Russian, the Great Russian, the chauvinist, in essence, the scoundrel and despoiler which the typical Russian bureaucrat is. There can be no doubt that the insignificant percentage of Soviet and Sovietized workers will drown in this sea of chauvinistic, Great Russian riffraff like a fly in milk.

The result: An Affirmative Action Empire, as Terry Martin styled it:

A third and final premise asserted that non-Russian nationalism was primarily a response to Tsarist oppression and was motivated by a historically justifiable distrust (nedoverie) of the Great Russians. This argument was pressed most forcefully by Lenin, who already in 1914 had attacked Rosa Luxemburg’s denial of the right of self-determination as “objectively aiding the Black Hundred Great Russians… Absorbed by the fight with nationalism in Poland, Rosa Luxemburg forgot about the nationalism of the Great Russians, though it is exactly this nationalism that is the most dangerous of all.” The nationalism of the oppressed, Lenin maintained, had a “democratic content” that must be supported, whereas the nationalism of the oppressor had no redeeming value. He ended with the slogan “Fight against all nationalisms and, first of all, against Great Russian nationalism.”

What polemicists against the Stalinist USSR’s destruction of national intellentsias in the Ukraine or the Baltics leave out is that the Bolsheviks started out with Russia’s.

Just one example: There was a Kiev Club of Russian Nationalists operating from 1908, a tea club of conservative intellectuals who promoted the theory of the triune Russian nation, which saw Malorossiyans (Ukrainians) as one branch of the Russian people. It is conceivable that in a surviving Russian Empire or Republic, these intellectuals would have helped foster the growth of a Malorossiyan identity subsumed to an overarching Russian one, as in Bavaria with respect to Germany, or even subsumed them entirely, as with the Occitans with respect to France. A fascinating what if. But this was not to be. The Bolsheviks got a list of their members on capturing Kiev in January 1919, and all 68 of their members were rounded up and shot.

odessa-ukrainization

The 1920s were to be a period of aggressive Ukranization, which Stalin cemented with the Holodomor.

Needless to say, Bolshevik reprisals against the Russian intelligentsia were not aimed exclusively at its overtly nationalist elements.

At the very top, there was, of course, the execution of the Romanov family (the French revolutionaries, at least, had the decency to spare Louis XVI’s children, and the last Chinese Emperor lived out his twilight days as an ordinary citizen of Maoist China).

The cream of Russia’s intellectual elites left the country. There would be no Sikorsky Airlines, no Zworykin TVs, no Dobzhansky Institutes. Just the “philosopher’s ship” carried away names like Sergey Bulgakov, Nikolay Berdyaev, and Ivan Ilyin.

A large percentage of those who stayed out of patriotic considerations would be killed by Stalin in the late 1930s, or forced to work as cognitive slaves in sharashkas.

Those who left, a “White emigration” numbering 2-3 millions, would instead enrich other countries.

russian-success-usa

In the early 1970s, Russian-Americans had the highest median family income, highest % of college graduates (26% vs. 12% US average), highest percentage of white-collar workers relative to all other European ethnic groups in the United States.

There was an aggressive campaign against Orthodox priests, who were conflated with nationalists.

Lenin in a March 1922 letter to the Politburo:

I come to the conclusion that we must precisely now smash the Black Hundreds clergy most decisively and ruthlessly and put down all resistance with such brutality that they will not forget it for several decades.

Lenin had an exceedingly poor opinion of the great classics of the Russian Silver Age. His learned thoughts on Tolstoy and Dostoevsky:

On this topic, Lenin’s judgments were made confidentaly, said directly and sharply, without equivocation. Lev Tolstoy: On the one hand: “A mirror of the Russian revolution,” a “spirited man” who “unmasked everyone and everything,” but on the other hand, he was also a “worn-out, hysterical slave to power,” preaching non-resistance to evil. Fedor Dostoevsky: “Vomit-inducing moralization,” “penitent hysteria” (on Crime and Punishment), an “odorous work” (on The Brothers Karamazov and Demons), “clearly reactionary filth… I read it and threw it at the wall” (on Demons).

Even the Cyrillic alphabet was an expression of Great Russian privilege. As Lenin told Anatoly Lunacharsky, the Soviet Minister of Education: “I am under no doubt that there will come a time when the Russian alphabet is Latinized… when we gather enough energy for this, all of this will be trivially easy.” This moment seemed to arrive in 1929, when a commission on the matter officially proclaimed that “the imminent transition of Russian to a single international alphabet is inevitable.”

Their arguments are too “powerful” not to cite in full:

The Russian civil alphabet is a relic of the class structure of the 18th-19th century of the Russian feudal landowerners and bourgeoisie – the structures of autocratic oppression, missionary propaganda, Great Russian chauvinism, coercive Russification, and the expansion of Russian Tsarism abroad… To this day it ties the Russian-reading population with the national-bourgeois traditions of Russian pre-revolutionary culture.

In the hands of the Soviet proletariat, a unified Latin alphabet will serve as a means of propagating the cultural revolution in the Soviet East on the basis of the socialist reconstruction of the national economy. This is why it will constitute the alphabet of the proletarian revolution in the Soviet East and a weapon of class war here, on the front of the cultural revolution. See the words of Lenin: “Latinization is the great revolution of the East).

Transition to the Latin alphabet will free the laboring masses of the Russian people from the influence of bourgeois-nationalist and religious pre-revolutionary texts. Of course, artistically and scientifically valuable literature from that period should be republished in the new alphabet.

It was none other than Stalin, who had been criticized as a Great Russian chauvinist by Lenin – and I suppose he was, at least by Lenin’s standards, if not by any other one – who put an abrupt stop to this project: “Tell [them] to stop work on the Latinization of the Russian alphabet.”

Incidentally, at this point you might be getting an inkling of the real reason why Western intellectuals like Lenin a lot more than Stalin.

It is also worth emphasizing that Lenin’s famous Testament on Stalin’s unfitness for office, contrary to its presentation as a premonition of Stalin’s capacity for tyranny – hardly a matter of concern to either man – actually arose as a result of a dispute between the two men on the nationalities policy.

Once again citing Affirmative Action Empire:

His anger climaxed during the notorious Georgian affair of 1922, when he denounced Dzerzhinskii, Stalin, and Ordzhonikidze as Great Russian chauvinists (russified natives, he maintained, were often the worst chauvinists). Such Bolshevik chauvinism inspired Lenin to coin the term rusotiapstvo (mindless Russian chauvinism), which then entered the Bolshevik lexicon and became an invaluable weapon in the rhetorical arsenals of the national republics. …

Lenin’s extreme formulation of this principle led to one of his two differences of opinion with Stalin over nationalities policy in late 1922. Stalin had supported the greatest-danger principle before 1922-1923, reiterated his support in 1923, and from April 1923 to December 1932 supervised a nationalities policy based on that principle. Nevertheless, Stalin was uncomfortable with the insistence that all local nationalism could be explained as a response to great-power chauvinism. Based on his experience in Georgia, Stalin insisted that Georgian nationalism was also characterized by great-power exploitation of their Ossetine and Abkhaz minorities. Stalin therefore always paired his attacks on Great Russian chauvinism with a complementary attack on the lesser danger of local nationalism. … Despite these differences in emphasis, Stalin consistently supported the greatest-danger principle.

Ultimately, it was Lenin’s nationality policy that more than anything else doomed his creation.

Once the socialist system – what Lenin and Co. saw as revealed truth – ran into terminal epistemic and economic failure, the Soviet carapace fell away, revealing the petty nationalisms they had nurtured all that while, and, married to the unleashed appetites of the nomenklatura, the resultant centrifugal forces blew the whole artificial contraption apart. And (Great) Russian (chauvinists), the only ethnicity without a place of their own in the Soviet communal apartment (in Yuri Slezkine’s metaphor), had no good incentives to try to keep it together.

As Vladimir Putin himself remarked in 2016:

It is right to steer the stream of thought, only we need this thought to lead to the right results, unlike in the case of Vladimir Ilyich. Because, eventually, this thought led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, that’s what it led to. There were many such thoughts: autonomation, and so on. They planted an atomic bomb underneath the building called Russia, later it blew up. Nor did we need the global revolution either. There was this thought there, too

This brings me to the final point I wish to make about Lenin: The state he built as a failure.

By extension, Lenin was not just a sadist, a Russophobe, and a tyrant.

He was also a failure.

The slogan “Land, Bread, Peace” turned into a lie as soon as it was implemented. In the end, Russia got two much bloodier wars, the Civil War and World War II, for the price of one – the one that it had as good as won by 1917, with Austria-Hungary and Turkey as good as knocked out the war. Nor was there much bread. The Civil War resulted in a famine ten times worse than than anything seen in the ancien regime, and the populations of Petrograd and Moscow declined by around 70% and 50%, respectively, as civilization went into literal reverse. And what had been an increasingly prosperous peasantry thanks to Stolypin’s reforms and the construction of a mass schooling system in the last two decades of the Empire was soon deprived of both its lands and rights under collectivization; Soviet peasants only gained the right to a passport in 1974.

The world that Lenin and his successors built was a world based on lies; lies with aggressive, impudent, and often deadly pretensions to truth, as lampooned from Koestler to Kundera.

This was a world where the fictive dictatorship of the proletariat was almost immediately replaced by an all too real dictatorship of the nomenklatura based on renewed class privileges, judicial “telephone law,” no division of powers, and but a lame parody of an electoral process.

There would be no world revolution. Apart from military conquest in Eastern Europe, and China setting off down its own demented Maoist experiment, the only other Communist takeovers would only happen in irrelevant parts of the Third World, which would quickly fall apart though not before consuming dollops of Soviet foreign aid, which it generously parcelled out even as it gained the dubious distinction of being the first industrialized country to see a sustained rise in infant mortality during peacetime. The last surviving relicts of that world, Cuba and North Korea, stand as testaments to total failure.

communism-failure

Even a robot realizes this.

A world that by the 1970s was a vast expanse of unproductive rustbelts, unable to compete with the capitalist world and kept afloat by an oil windfall that would peter out by the late 1980s.

A world whose own citizens abandoned it for the promise of a pair of jeans, and whose own masters ended up selling it for real estate in Monaco and Miami.

This is the world that Lenin built and which collapsed during the 1990s.

“The intelligentsia is not the brains of the nation, but its shit.” It’s as if he was talking about himself.

 
• Category: History • Tags: Bolshevik Revolution, Communism, Lenin, Soviet Union 
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Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.

One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.

Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.