[Marxism] Lenin's alleged syphilis - flogging a dead mummy

Jurriaan Bendien andromeda246 at hetnet.nl
Tue Jul 20 10:15:05 MDT 2004

This story isn't news, it has been around for a long time in the Russian
press. The British Telegraph article by Julius Strauss is titled with the
quote "We have proof that Lenin died of syphilis" and is based on V. Lerner,
Y. Finkelstein and E. Witztum, "The enigma of Lenin's (1870-1924) malady",
in the European Journal of Neurology, Volume 11 Issue 6 Page 371  - June
full/ This article provides plenty references to previous claims about
Lenin's alleged syphilis.

However, Lerner et al. only claim they are advancing an "hypothesis" and
they conclude from the circumstantial evidence that: "The detailed stages of
Lenin's illness correlate highly with the clinical course of neurosyphilis.
The clinical correlates of middle cerebral artery involvement including
hemiparesis and aphasia are typical in neurosyphilis, as are the autopsy
findings of complete obliteration of large-, medium- and small-sized blood

This is however not the same as the "proof" which Julius Strauss implies,
and Strauss himself notes that "The diagnosis of syphilis was particularly
problematic in the 19th and early 20th century, as the disease often mimics
other brain disorders." But that is precisely the point of the article to
which he refers.

The real purpose of Lerner et al.'s article is not, as Strauss suggests with
his title, to advance "proof" that Lenin had syphilis, but instead to
illustrate that "Instead of suspension of responsibilities, the health
status of political leaders is concealed, especially when the illness is
perceived as stigmatizing, such as organic mental impairment or sexual
disorder. The objective of the present paper is to analyse the malady of
Lenin (1870-1924) in the light of relevant and new medical information. It
is hoped that this will accentuate the need for transparency when the health
of a statesman is concerned."

So Julius Strauss's Telegraph article is misrepresenting what the article by
Lerner et al. is really about.

It is well-documented that Lenin, who survived several assassination
attempts, was extremely concerned with health matters and was highly aware
of interpersonal relations, including his own health (see e.g. Ronald W.
Clarke, Lenin: A biography) and, as Richard Pipes has noted in his
compilation of archival evidence, Lenin occasionally went to far as to
demand medical examinations for his political staff, to verify that they
were fit for work.

If Lenin's doctors investigated the possibility Lenin might have syphilis,
or thought he might have it, this does not necessarily mean he really did
have it. And supposing that he did have it, this does not prove either that
this was the actual cause of his death. We will probably never know for

However, if Lenin had been infected with syphilis anywhere between 1904 and
1914, then the question is raised why Nadezhda Krupskaya did not die of
syphilis - presumably Lenin, who was in reality not a puritan, would have
had sexual intercourse with his wife at least on some occasions subsequent
to the revolution (they met in 1894 and married in July 1898).

A more telling clue about Lenin's sex life is provided by Russian writer
Maxim Gorky. "Yet time and again, when he spoke of the people he had scolded
and crucified the day before, I plainly heard a note of sincere astonishment
for their
talent and moral fibre, of respect for their hard, unremitting effort under
the hellish conditions of 1918-1921, when they worked surrounded by the
spies of all countries and all political parties, amid conspiracies that
ripened like suppurating boils on the body of the war-emaciated country.
They had worked without rest, eating little and poor food, living in a state
of constant anxiety. (...) As for myself, I heard him complain only once:
"What a pity," he said, "that Martov is not with us! What a wonderful
comrade he is, what a pure heart!" I remember how long and heartily he
laughed when he read somewhere that Martov had said: "There are only two
Communists in Russia, Lenin and Kollontai." Recovering from his laughter he
added with a sigh: "How clever he is! Oh well..." After seeing an economic
executive to the door of his study, he said with the same respect and
wonder: "Have you known him long? He could head a cabinet in any European
country." Rubbing his hands, he added: "Europe is poorer in talent than we."
I suggested that he visit the Chief Artillery Headquarters with me to look
at the invention of a former artilleryman, a Bolshevik. It was a device to
correct anti-aircraft fire. "What do I know of such things?" he said, but
went with me just the same. In a darkish room we found seven grim generals,
all of them grey, moustached, and erudite, sitting round the table on which
the device was set up. Lenin's modest civilian figure seemed lost among
them. The inventor proceeded to explain the construction. Listening for a
minute or two, Lenin uttered approvingly "Hm" and began to question the man
as easily as if he were putting him through an examination on political
problems: "How does the aiming mechanism manage a double task? Couldn't the
angle of the gun barrels be synchronised automatically to the findings of
the mechanism? "  Source: Maxim Gorky, "V.I. Lenin", at:


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