Did Lenin commit atrocities too?

Nov 2008
639
Melbourne, Australia
#31
A gradual revolution is very hard to achieve. For true communism to arise it would take lifetimes of stability and sacrifices. Unfortunatly most idealists simply cannot wait to live in the utopia they have imagined, so they decide against their best judgement to speed things up a bit.
That's very true, and that's exactly what Lenin aimed to do. Ultimately however, while rapid/violent/mob/upheaval revolutions can be achieved quickly, ultimately they fail to change the fundamentals and whither in time.

True change requires time and maturation. As does Marxism. Indeed, for Marx, the development to communism required the length of the whole of human history, and the advancement through a number of entire epochs before the promised utopia could be unveiled.

As I said, fundamental change is slow change. Look at the French Revolution: it took decades of change and several differing Republics and Constitutions to develop and refine the philosophy of liberalism.
 

avon

Forum Staff
May 2008
14,253
#32
... Ultimately however, while rapid/violent/mob/upheaval revolutions can be achieved quickly, ultimately they fail to change the fundamentals and whither in time.

True change requires time and maturation. As does Marxism. Indeed, for Marx, the development to communism required the length of the whole of human history, and the advancement through a number of entire epochs before the promised utopia could be unveiled.
Ostensibly, I agree. But, by the same measure I would point to the so-called 'Stalinist Revolution' of the 1930s whereby the economic base was altered rather than the superstructure. Collectivisation, forced industrialisation etc. etc. on an almost incredible scale ...
 
Jul 2007
9,098
Canada
#33
Indeed, for Marx, the development to communism required the length of the whole of human history, and the advancement through a number of entire epochs before the promised utopia could be unveiled.
Well, I don't know ... Marx certainly wasn't thinking of Russia but he did believe the conditions were near to fulfillment in England and Germany. In 1850 he declared it might take "15, 20, 30 years of civil strife and foreign wars," and that was a revised estimate after the revolutions of 1848 had failed to realize communism immediately.
 
Nov 2008
639
Melbourne, Australia
#34
Ostensibly, I agree. But, by the same measure I would point to the so-called 'Stalinist Revolution' of the 1930s whereby the economic base was altered rather than the superstructure. Collectivisation, forced industrialisation etc. etc. on an almost incredible scale ...
But surely this was held together by the military and economic power of the party and the personal determination of Stalin himself rather than by a popular revolution. As soon as the strength of the the party began to wane, the people couldn't wait to be rid of these economic structures.
 

avon

Forum Staff
May 2008
14,253
#35
But surely this was held together by the military and economic power of the party and the personal determination of Stalin himself rather than by a popular revolution.
True, very true, but a revolution nonetheless. The dramatic move towards Stalinism (from Marxism-Leninism) during the 1930s dragged the masses towards Stalin’s ideological vision kicking and screaming. At the centre of this revolution sat Stalin himself assisted, most often very enthusiastically, by a cohort of equally ‘bolshevik-minded’ brutes, more than willing to exceed their ‘leader and teacher’s’ expectations. Some of them were more radical and more ready executioners than Uncle Joe himself. But then, if we take a classic-Totalitarian view of the Soviet power structure – like that of a pyramid with Stalin sitting atop and each descending level of power becoming progressively wider – we can then suggest that Stalin himself was merely the driving force of the ‘revolution’. He gives direction, recommends targets (or sometimes ‘limits’) and these instructions are passed down through the quasi-pyramidic power structure. But does that really mean that Stalin himself was the only revolutionary?? Perhaps, it does. But then the problem is that this tidy pyramid diagram fails to account for many realities in any and perhaps all power structures: reciprocity. Whilst we might see Stalin directing and giving orders, we must also wonder what expectations were placed on him as leader. Was he perhaps forced to purge the Army leadership as a means of protecting the Party?? Were the so-called ‘Great Purges’ of the later 1930s a means of satiating the needs of Party or those around him?? The need for him to sometimes actually limit the killing in some areas suggests that the level of control he actually had was somewhat less than autocratic. In short, Stalin himself, was, to a degree not often expressed by his successors, less controlling of affairs than is often made out. After his death, when Khrushchev moved towards de-Stalinisation, the brief collective leadership bickered and criticised each other according to how they each had behaved during the Stalin years. In many ways, each was as guilty of murder and brutality as the others – not one had clean hands. But even this was not the criticism, rather, instead of murder being the charge, it was simple excess. The Stalinist Revolution was indeed a far more collective revolution than many realise.

As soon as the strength of the the party began to wane, the people couldn't wait to be rid of these economic structures.
Ummm … not quite. The CPSU’s power began to wane quite soon after Stalin’s death. And whilst it might be true to suggest that Khrushchev presided over this twilight in the early 1960s, I think it would be more reasonable to suggest that the Party’s power became somewhat diluted in the ridiculous ‘collective leaderships’ that characterised the early years of both Khrushchev and Brezhnev’s reigns. The Soviet economy, likewise, witnessed its highs in the late 1950s with a growth-rate some eleven times greater than that of the USA. Khrushchev jumped at this growth and all that it promised and declared that the Soviet Union would reach ‘the threshold of Communism by 1980.’ When growth fell away during the following few years, and the full-extent of Nikita’s gaff could be appreciated by his ‘colleagues’, his end was in sight. By the time Brezhnev took hold of the reigns after the ‘October Plenum’ in 1964, the Soviet Union was already beginning to stagnate. Significantly, the ‘coup’ that instituted Brezhnev in power was a collective plot spurred on by an ideological reaction to Khrushchevism and the politics of ‘thaw’. Brezhnev came to power under the burden of political debts and had to balance opposing ideologies: conservatism, which had installed him in power, and liberalism, of which he also had supporters (such as Alexei Kosygin) believing that he would, and indeed could, continue many of Khrushchev’s reforms.

From this point onwards, the Soviet Union is a large and stagnant entity. To be fair, the regime aimed at consumerism and social welfare, technological/scientific improvements … BUT … there remained much of Khrushchev within these ‘reforms’ only they had been made more palatable to the far more varied factions of the Politburo by the removal of their more ‘anti-Stalinist’ elements (decentralisation etc.). If the search for political stability might be construed as ‘stagnation’, then that stagnation was legitimised and made all the more endemic by the adoption of Developed Socialism. Developed Socialism anounces to the world: ‘we are here, and that’s alright. In fact, that’s good enough for us.’ Basically, it was a social story for a seemingly autistic government. Not that the CPSU were really cancelling Khrushchev’s wild claims of reaching the threshold of Communism by 1980, they were simply saying that it probably possibly might be, approximately, some time later than that. (Okay, perhaps that’s a bit unfair!!)

But yet, the Soviet people persisted with the system. They persisted, even thought they knew that there was a gross material disparity between the USSR/Eastern Bloc countries and the West. They persisted with an economy that was shot to pieces to the extent that there was a shadow economy that almost dwarf the official economy. They persisted with the fact that although they had massive amounts on money under the mattress, there was nothing to buy, nowhere to go. Whilst they might travel to other Eastern Bloc countries, there were still usually shortages of goods there as well. They persisted for twenty-five years or so!! :)
 
Nov 2008
639
Melbourne, Australia
#36
True, very true, but a revolution nonetheless. The dramatic move towards Stalinism (from Marxism-Leninism) during the 1930s dragged the masses towards Stalin’s ideological vision kicking and screaming... The Stalinist Revolution was indeed a far more collective revolution than many realise.
Hmmmm, surely revolution requires popular enthusiasm and involvement. Can it really be described as a fundamental revolution when the populace are dragged into it "kicking and screaming"? Without the revolutionary enthusiasm of the proletariat, it seems more apt to describe these changes as shallow totalitarian reform enforced with military and ideological power. While the other leaders of the party may have collaborated willingly, even enthusiastically, with Stalin, I would still describe this as the manipulations of a small ruling caste rather than a true revolution.


By the time Brezhnev took hold of the reigns after the ‘October Plenum’ in 1964, the Soviet Union was already beginning to stagnate...From this point onwards, the Soviet Union is a large and stagnant entity.
While I do agree that the power of the party and the central leadership waned after the death of Stalin, it was still not reduced to the point at which the proletariat and peasantry could abandon the economic structures if it chose. The party never abandoned economic or ideological control. While the populace of the East had grown wholly skeptical of the validity of the party and its policies, they were, largely speaking still subject to significant social control which the party refused to relax. While the ruling party may have squabbled amongst themselves, the fundamental structure of the economic framework and social control was untouched. The populace were still under continued scrutiny by a large, active secret service and military, and exposed to the economic controls of collectivization and nationalization through which they could be monitored by party officials.

But yet, the Soviet people persisted with the system. They persisted, even thought they knew that there was a gross material disparity between the USSR/Eastern Bloc countries and the West. They persisted with an economy that was shot to pieces to the extent that there was a shadow economy that almost dwarf the official economy. They persisted with the fact that although they had massive amounts on money under the mattress, there was nothing to buy, nowhere to go. Whilst they might travel to other Eastern Bloc countries, there were still usually shortages of goods there as well. They persisted for twenty-five years or so!! :)
I wouldn't describe them as "persisiting" so much as "tolerating". "Persisting" woud imply that they were driving the system, which they clearly were not. As I have said, due to the considerable economic, social and ideological controls imposed on the population, there was little the proletariat could do to alter the economic framework. While the power of the party waned after the death of the Stalin, the controls remained. It was not until the arrival of Gorbachev that the totalitarian controls of the SU were relaxed under glasnost and perestroika and finally, once the true fundamentals of the party were tampered with, the proletariat finally saw its opportunity to impose change and a reversal to a more tolerable economic system. An opportunity that they had been forcibly denied for 60 years.
 

avon

Forum Staff
May 2008
14,253
#37
Hmmmm, surely revolution requires popular enthusiasm and involvement. Can it really be described as a fundamental revolution when the populace are dragged into it "kicking and screaming"? Without the revolutionary enthusiasm of the proletariat, it seems more apt to describe these changes as shallow totalitarian reform enforced with military and ideological power. While the other leaders of the party may have collaborated willingly, even enthusiastically, with Stalin, I would still describe this as the manipulations of a small ruling caste rather than a true revolution.



A ‘true revolution’?? What’s that exactly?? I would tend to think that the October Revolution was a case of a small number of revolutionaries overturning the existing order. That is, a revolution of the few that lacked the ‘enthusiasm of the proletariat’ – it wasn’t at all like Eisenstein’s great film October. I really doubt that popular support matters within the semantics of ‘what is a revolution?’ But also, whilst the Stalinist’s did meet staunch opposition towards their ‘revolution’, it stands that they also had significant support. In fact, it is worth noting that the very success of the revolution strongly signals that this support was significantly stronger that the opposition. But then, we must also look into Stalin’s position as well. Did this single man, a human-being like you and I (in the physical sense of the word!!) really commit mass-murder all by himself?? I would stipulate non! His policies almost certainly DID engender real plots against his position to which he then reacted – and almost certainly over-reacted. Stalin was sat atop a pyramid of power that was fed lies, lies and more lies; illegal acts by managers, falsification of information that were then sent up the pyramid, dire figures about employment and the overturn of jobs etc. etc. etc. His power was constrained by this system. That is why he resorted to dire hit-and-run tactics. For the most part, Stalin was left to try and limit the actions of those around him. The eagerness of those around him for the transformation of Soviet society is something that has been downplayed – for various reasons – since the 1930s. (Whilst he was alive, he took sole credit for the ‘success’ of collectivization and industrialization; when he died, those that had previously been his cohorts and henchmen attempted to distance themselves – that simple really!!)

So how wide was this ‘small ruling caste’?? Without doubt, the immense changes that occurred throughout the 1930s (changes that paved the way for victory in WWII and then the Cold War) could not have been carried-out by a small ruling caste without the wide-scale support of the majority of the population. Look at the number of eager stakhanovites – they number in the hundreds of thousands – all eager to fulfill their orders – many of their letters home, whilst describing severe hardships, also signal implicit pride in what they are participating in.

While I do agree that the power of the party and the central leadership waned after the death of Stalin, it was still not reduced to the point at which the proletariat and peasantry could abandon the economic structures if it chose. The party never abandoned economic or ideological control. While the populace of the East had grown wholly skeptical of the validity of the party and its policies, they were, largely speaking still subject to significant social control which the party refused to relax. While the ruling party may have squabbled amongst themselves, the fundamental structure of the economic framework and social control was untouched. The populace were still under continued scrutiny by a large, active secret service and military, and exposed to the economic controls of collectivization and nationalization through which they could be monitored by party officials.
Perhaps, but at the same time, under what circumstances could a populace abandon the established economic structures?? Anyhow, you’re right, the economic structure wasn’t abandoned ... not consciously at least. The Party did, however, lose economic (and possibly ideological) control. The ‘shadow economy’ pays testament to this. And although it was ‘shadow’ it was accepted and, unofficially at least, sanctioned by the very highest echelons of the State. Of course, one might ask if it was truly sanctioned or whether the leaders simply resigned themselves to it as an unavoidable fact of life.

As the State lost control of the economy, you might then wonder how they managed to keep control of the proletariat. The answer comes in the form of a social contract. This ‘social contract’ provided stability and material security in return for political quiescence. In return for fixed wages, the workers made no complaints against the regime. A feature of this stability was that wage differentials remained extremely low by comparison to western economies. Wage policies were particularly beneficial to the industrial working class with blue-collar workers frequently earning more than their ‘white-collar’ comrades. Doctors earned little and industrial engineers often earned less than the blue-collars they were possibly supposed to supervise. This might sound perfectly socialist – certainly, a clear step towards Communism – but there were significant problems with this ‘contract’.

In a plant of perhaps 300 workers, there might usually be about 40 absences every day. Workers might turn up late (something you could have been executed for in the 1930s) without reprimand. Supervisors attempting to meet targets required a workforce; in some cases where attempts to instill discipline were tried, supervisors were beaten and, consequently, often remained intimidated by their workers. Simply put, because the state had forfeited control of production for the sake of quiescence, production dropped and could not be raised again for fear of the workers response. Corruption and deceit then became implicit to the system as employers resorted to dire means to meet targets and then lied about production by falsifying the figures. The economy was slowly but surely cracking under the weight of a non-productive workforce.


I wouldn't describe them as "persisting" so much as "tolerating"...
Yeah, I could live with that!! Fair point. The regime and the people were tolerating each other … which accounts for the majority at least but ignores all the émigrés and those cast out of the Soviet Union. It ignores the daunting quantity of zamisdat literature published throughout the 1970s and 80s.
 
Feb 2009
357
United States
#38
A Revolution was just, but not the Leninist one. Lenin wasn't nearly as bad as Stalin was, but he was still a mean SOB with his eyes on absolute power. He just never got that far. Interests of the masses at heart my rear end. ;)
 
Feb 2009
34
Ireland
#39
Lenin had failed to create a Communist state by the time of his death. He even had to revert to semi-capitalism with the New Economic Policy following the Civil War, just to keep himself in power. Lenin was, in short, a failure.
 
#40
Lenin cared about the workers. But he also knew what it would take to 'finalize' the revolution. He was seen as not attached to the Cheka but in reality approved of its business. He knew that many (opposition to the revolution) would need to die. The Red Army committed atrocities as well as the White Army did, however Trotsky was the head of the Red Army. In a sense he did commit atrocities, but he also said all along that many would die and that until a full utopian society was achieved, the party (Bolsheviks/Communist) would have 'Dictatorship of the Proletariat.' In really must have been tough in the years after the Bolsheviks took control.
 

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