Monthly Archives: May 2023

Book Review: Medhurst, John, “No Less Than Mystic. A History of Lenin and the Russian Revolution for a 21st Century Left.” Repeater Books, London, 2017. Second review

I found out who gifted me this lousy book, but I did not strangle him on the spot. It’s just a very old friend from 50 years ago who made a lot of money but lost track of things and made peace with the bosses. He meant well. Because another old friend of 50 years ago, who has also lost track, urged me to, I finally finished the darned thing.

My opinion of the book hasn’t changed since I first saw the cover page endorsement by armchair socialist Noam Chomsky and wrote my pre-review.

The book is anti-revolutionary and pro-idealistic-backbiting all the way through, just like Chomsky.

There are many interesting historical dates and events in there, but the interpretation is wrong from beginning to end. Medhurst seriously wants to prove that all revolutionaries in history were wrong, and that all the armchair socialists, who sat back and criticized, were right.

In the first chapters, Medhurst exposes his basic thesis: The Bolsheviks failed to create Heaven on Earth 1917-1921. The reason, as he explains for 594 pages, is not because of the desperate fight against reactionaries. Medhurst has a psychological explanation: Lenin was an egotistical monster.

The book lauds the Medhurst’s great men of armchair ideas: Bernstein, Kautsky, Martov, Orwell, and Chomsky. He might as well have added Nixon and Reagan, because their aims and effects were the same, even though their methods differed.

Medhurst’s basic thesis against Marx and Lenin gets greatly muddled as he reviews a pageant of middle-class scholars with a panoply of themes that include everything except that the workers must oppose the bosses. Examples are too many to list. Here’s just one from page 54: “Marxism had too much about the hours of work and not enough about sex and celebration.”

As one might expect, the Red Terror that Lenin unleashed takes up a considerable portion of the book. To be sure, there is one line in there somewhere that says that the White Terror from the imperialist forces was just as bad or worse. Elsewhere, there is one line that says that the American CIA has been worse than all of them. That doesn’t keep the single-minded Medhurst from raving on throughout the book about the great Mensheviks and the horrible Bolsheviks.

If one looks carefully, one can find, on page 380, two sentences that validate Lenin and condemn both Martov and Medhurst: “On 17th October Yudenich’s [white army] forces were only twenty five miles from the city [Petrograd]. On 19th October they were 9 miles away.” Despite having taken extreme measures, the Russian revolution almost lost to imperialism! The revolution barely survived.

Armchair socialists, then and now, are forever condemning revolutionaries for taking strong measures. But if they hadn’t, they would have made no progress against imperialism. Trotsky would have lost to Yudenich at Petrograd. Stalin would have lost to Hitler at Stalingrad. Castro would have lost to Kennedy at the Bay of Pigs. Alternately, if stronger measures had been taken in Chile in 1973, Allende might have prevailed over Kissinger.

–Gene Lantz

I”m on knon’s “Workers Beat” radio talk show at 9AM every Saturday. Podcasts go up on Wednesdays under name “Workers Beat Extra.” If you are curious about what I really think, chcck out my personal page.

Mao Zedong died in 1976. The other titled characters were long gone decades earlier. And yet, young “revolutionaries” of today are still spending their time and resources arguing about them instead of dealing with the awful crises at hand. As early as this Summer, a world-wide economic crisis may begin. An ice shelf may drop into the ocean and drown millions of people who live on coastlines. The Supreme Court may take away our legal right to strike. State legislatures are clamping down on all aspects of democracy. Fascism may take us into its icy grip. And young people are still arguing about Lenin, Martov, Stalin, Trotsky, and Mao!

V.I. Lenin was the pen name of the revolutionary who created a split in the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party in the early part of the 20th century. He insisted that revolutionaries had to recognize that the people ruling Russia, and the people ruling all nations, had to be fought and removed from power. Martov and his followers believed that no such fight was necessary, or if it was necessary, it would be wiser to put it off and wait for a more propitious time. Lenin’s group eventually took the name “communist,” while Martov’s followers continued with “social democrat.”

Lenin believed that the war against the ruling class was necessary and had to be ruthless. His followers emphasized “necessary” and Martov’s emphasized “ruthless” in their arguments over the ensuing years. Following the success of Lenin’s formulation in 1917, the split continued around the world. The Leninists believed that class war was inevitable; the Social Democrats believed in gradualism and, specifically, that they could eventually be elected to power through conventional democratic processes. There are still a few communists in America and a few more social democrats, especially since social democrat Bernie Sanders stirred the pot with more-or-less independent campaigns in the 2016 and 2020 Democratic Party primaries. Incidentally, I’m not sure what will happen with the American social democrats now that Bernie has endorsed Joe Biden for 2024. I think I can explain that.

When fascism triumphed in Germany, the social democrats blamed the communists and the communists blamed the social democrats. Each of them said that they could have united in the 1932 German elections and out-polled Hitler, and each of them says, to this day, that it’s the other’s fault. There’s a pretty good treatment of that election on Wikipedia. I think it shows that no such coalition was ever possible. The social democrats did not even run in that election. They supported General Paul Von Hindenberg in the erroneous belief that he could stop both Hitler and the communists.

When the beleaguered Soviet Union eventually collapsed, the social democrats said “we knew it all along,” and the communists said, “they lasted 7 decades against overwhelming odds!” That was 3 decades ago, and yet the arguments continue.

Stalin, Trotsky and Mao enthusiastically supported Lenin’s view. Trotsky was deported around 1928 and started his own world movement that said, basically, “Lenin was right, but Stalin ruined it.” Over the years, they even began saying that Trotsky had never supported Lenin’s ruthless Red Terror, but he did.

Stalin certainly supported the Red Terror and continued similar policies as head of the Soviet Union until he died in the early 1950s. Mao of China sincerely supported the Soviet Union until he started a split in the early 1960s. After that, he encouraged a worldwide “Maoist” movement based around the idea that “Mao Thought” was the only prescription for revolution. They were quite popular among students for a while.

About Bernie

I think Bernie Sanders was probably right to endorse Joe Biden for president in 2024. The danger of fascism is too near and too awful for anybody to deliberately split the electorate. Biden is no revolutionary and, some would say, neither is Bernie; but working families need to get past the 2024 elections without instituting fascism, and all of us should be able to agree to that.

The funny part

Ironically, all the aforementioned historical figures called themselves Marxists. Even though they argued against each other and, in some cases, even killed each other, all through history, they all claimed the same ideology. All of them claimed that they were adamantly opposed to the bosses who run things. If they really were Marxists, one would think that they would take to heart one simple sentence from the best-known work of Marx and Engels, “We communists have no interests outside those of the working class.”

It isn’t very hard to figure out the interests of the working class, both short term and long term. It wasn’t hard in the old days and is certainly not difficult today. Working families need better living standards and more democracy. Both are being threatened by the bosses who are running things. Worldwide, the bosses are slashing living standards and democracy. The process, often called “the race to the bottom,” grows more clear every day. Working families around the world, to one degree or another, are trying to fight back, but they desperately need coherent revolutionary leadership.

But the leaders are too busy arguing with one another about things that happened last century.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on’s “Workers Beat” radio talk show every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. They post my “Workers Beat Extra” podcasts on their websight and, long term, on If you are curious about what I really think, just look at my personal web site. BTW, I just posted my 4th Sci-Fi novel there.

I was surprised, just now, to learn that Texas is not the worst state in America when it comes to gun killings, at least we weren’t in past statistics. This weekend’s massacre in Allen and the Uvalde bloodfest will surely boost the state in the next polling. I suppose that all Texans are wondering today, just as I am, will I die by gun violence in the near future?

After all, I am known somewhat as a union spokesperson. Every week on FM radio, I espouse progressive causes. When crazy reactionaries call in, I can nearly always lead them in discussion until they reveal how ridiculous they are. On the air, I often joke about MAGA extremists and denounce American foreign policy. Does that make me a target for the crazies?

Even now, I’m extra cautious when I drive up to the KNON studio parking lot on Saturdays. I look to see if there are any white men sitting in cars or pickup trucks. Usually, it’s only African Americans waiting for their appointments at the barber shop in the building. They’re OK. Hardly any Black people have carried out massacres.

For a while, I considered packing heat. It’s legal in Texas even without a license nor any training. I was raised in the country, so I’m not the worst shot in the world and could probably hold my own, I hope, in a gunfight. So I considered putting a pistol in my car. I thought better of it, partly because I might not fare so well in a gunfight against several assailants, and partly because I don’t think I could ever feel good about it, even if I won.

So I made a plan. If I see any white men waiting in the parking lot, I put my phone on “Facebook Live” before I get out of the car. A few gunmen, I suppose, might think that they can kill me and get away with it; consequently, they might be deterred once they see that I’m broadcasting on Facebook. If they see that they won’t get away with it, my reasoning goes, maybe they won’t do it. Maybe they will settle for a few threats and insults, but let me live another day. And if they murder me, at least I’ll be their last victim because Facebook will provide witnesses and pressure on the police to arrest the perpetrators.

It was the best plan I could come up with. I’m a little scared to live in Texas today. I imagine that everybody is.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on’s “Workers Beat” program every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. They post my weekly blogs “Workers Beat Extra” to If you are curious about what I really think, you might look at my personal web site