Lenin as "dictator"

Louis N Proyect lnp3 at columbia.edu
Thu Jun 8 09:24:57 MDT 1995

On Thu, 8 Jun 1995 TimW333521 at aol.com wrote:

> I would suggest that  a balanced view of Lenin, based, of course, on 70 years
> of hindsight, would not give him quite a clean a bill on the "dictator"
> question.
> Lenin was definitely not a person known for tolerating the views of others,
> except when he had no alternative but to do so.  Luckily this was the case
> much of the time!    He never veered from an absolute conviction in his own

Louis Proyect:
What do you mean by "tolerating"? I don't "tolerate" the views of many
people on this list, but wouldn't dream of censoring them. I love a good
debate and view the history of the Bolshevik party as an exercise in the
vigorous free exchange of ideas. In the study I recently completed on the
NEP, I found a huge amount of evidence of debate and controversy in the
Russian party and sister parties. You had debates going on between
Bukharin, Zinoviev, Kollantai, Trotsky and others that were just as
fractious and heated as anything that goes on in this list.

The question of how the Bolsheviks treated their opponents is more
problematic. I wouldn't try to generalize about methods employed in the
early 1920's when the country was trying to survive a civil war into an
overall schema of Leninism = Stalinism. The Sandinistas, the Fidelistas
and other revolutionary leaderships under siege have sometimes violated
civil liberties, but no more than bourgeois democratic revolutionaries in
earlier periods in history. Compared to the victorious revolutions in
England, France and the United States, the Russian Revolution was an
exercise in textbook democracy.

The only way to understand Stalin's methods of rule is from a materialist
perspective. He was defending the interests of a priviliged layer whose
interests were antithetical to the interests of workers and peasants.
This is the same group basically that is now cutting deals with
Goldman-Sachs and other western banks. Stalin appropriated Lenin's
formulations made during an extreme period of civil war and cynically
used them to justify his own dictatorship. This does not condemn acts
of vigilance taken during a period when the Soviet Union was being
invaded by more than a dozen expeditionary armies.

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