I have begun to really appreciate Lenin. Previously, I looked up to the guy but didn’t really like reading his works. They were too argumentative, and the people he was arguing against, long dead and forgotten, didn’t seem worth all the fuss. It seemed to me that just about everything Lenin wrote, except maybe his major original contribution, “Imperialism,” was a polemic. Hard, unyielding, mean polemic, too.
Then we come to today. We have going probably the greatest worldwide upsurge of revolutionary youth in the history of humanity. I have never seen so many people so open to change and so insistent. But, big but, they have no program. They are going every whichaway. Makes me appreciate Lenin and I’ll tell you why.
I didn’t learn much from “Life of Lenin,” except that his older brother was one of the many youths hanged for revolutionary activities, but I learned a bit from Krupskaya’s account of their life together. I think she said that he came to Petrograd in 1898. At that time, the youthful revolutionaries were doing educationals for workers every Sunday. Classes, that’s all they were doing.
Not long before that, a fellow named Plekhanov had translated major Marxist literature into Russian. It had been written decades earlier, but it was just then getting into a language they could all read. Lenin had studied it, and he started arguing that the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party should adopt Marxism. I imagine that Lenin didn’t want to see everybody go down the willy-nilly path his brother had followed. He wanted something that might work.
I have a notion that it was a lot like it is in the United States now. There were a lot of young activists doing this and that, but nobody actually had a plan. Lenin had a plan, and he was willing to fight for it. I don’t think that Lenin was a particularly handsome guy, and I’ve never heard that he was a great orator. As I said, his argumentative writing is hard to follow. But lately, I’ve finally realized why he had to be so pugnacious. Then and now, there are a tremendous lot of wrong ideas floating around, and they need to be shot down and replaced with something that might work.
“When Trotsky spoke, we applauded wildly,” some soldier from that period wrote, “but when Lenin spoke, we marched!”
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