From Fourth International, Vol. II No. 1, January 1941, pp. 3–5.
Transcribed & marked up up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
Our party is organizing Lenin Memorial meetings during this month (Lenin died January 21, 1924). These meetings are not rituals; we devote them to presenting the completely contemporary program of Lenin, the only program which can put an end to this war and to all wars.
This great task of resuscitating Lenin’s program is made all the more necessary by the ritualistic pageants which the Stalinists are conducting under the name of “Lenin Memorial” meetings. Perhaps the best way to describe these Stalinist incantations is to recall Lenin’s description of what the Social Democracy did to Marx’s program:
“During the lifetime of great revolutionaries, the oppressing classes have visited relentless persecution on them and received their teaching with the most savage hostility, the most furious hatred, the most ruthless campaign of lies and slanders. After their death, attempts are made to turn them into harmless icons, canonise them, and surround their names with a certain halo for the ‘consolation’ of the oppressed classes and with the object of duping them, while at the same time emasculating and vulgarising the real essence of their revolutionary theories and blunting their revolutionary edge. At the present time, the bourgeoisie and the opportunists within the labor movement are cooperating in this work on adulterating Marxism.” 
Today, likewise, the bourgeois enemies of Leninism are cooperating with the Stalinists in the adulteration of Leninism. From the Pope down to Professor Sidney Hook, they insist that Stalin is the true heir of Lenin; and though they say so for hostile purposes, their assertions are grist to Stalin’s mill.
The Lenin portrayed in these Stalinist meetings and Stalinist literature has about as much life in him as the grotesque mummy which the Kremlin keeps on display in Red Square. In the seventeen years since Lenin’s death, the history of the Russian Revolution, the story of Lenin’s life, has been rewritten and rewritten at Stalin’s behest. In 1923–1926, it was rewritten to demote Trotsky and glorify Stalin and his collaborators of that period, Zinoviev, Rykov, Tomsky, Bukharin, etc. In 1926 Zinoviev and Kamenev were demoted retroactively. In 1929 Bukharin and the rest were demoted also. With each succeeding year Stalin’s new exigencies dictated further alterations in the written record. With the massacre in the Moscow Trials of the generation which made the Russian Revolution, the story of Lenin’s life is re-told to picture his closest collaborators as agents of German and world imperialism in 1918 or earlier! With the murder of Trotsky, who established for all time the guilt of the Stalin School of Falsification, the Kremlin’s professors are spurred to add new and still newer laurels to Stalin’s crown. Our children will find ii hard to grasp, how such a fantastic masquerade could be conducted so solemnly.
And the Lenin that emerges from this Stalinist literature!
To those who understand anything at all about Lenin’s place in the Russian Revolution, it is clear how Lenin guided the whole work of the Bolshevik party. He had a realistic understanding of his leading role. Details, administrative tasks, he left to others; his luminous mind surveyed the totality of the process and provided the broader vision which those preoccupied with specific functions might lack. He made a sharp distinction between political leadership and administration. He underlined that distinction, in his Testament – his last letter to the party – by chiding Trotsky for a “disposition to be far too much attracted by the purely administrative side of affairs.” This criticism was, at the same time, the greatest tribute he could pay Trotsky: he was insisting that Trotsky must be the kind of political leader that Lenin was. This profound conception of Lenin’s was one of his major contributions to the theory of leadership.
But Stalin must erase it. Not only by keeping Lenin’s Testament from the party – to this day it has not been published, for it concludes with Lenin’s proposal to remove Stalin, as “rude” and “disloyal,” from his post as General Secretary of the party. But also by creating a picture of Lenin in Stalin’s image: a bureaucratic administrator.
One of the latest instances of this rewriting of Lenin’s life is The October Days 1917, by one I. Mintz, just published by the Stalinists. Let us cite one example; it would take a book to analyse all the lies in this little pamphlet.
The All-Russian Congress of Soviets was in session at Smolny the night of October 25–26, 1917 (old style calendar). The debates of that night have passed into history as one of the great landmarks of revolution. Trotsky was the spokesman for the Bolsheviks against the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries. All the great questions of revolution were at issue. Lenin was not there for the same reason that he had not been present in public for months; the party feared the counter-revolutionists would try to murder him. The booming of guns was heard in the session: the attack on the Winter Palace. With its capture and the victory of the revolution in Petrograd, Lenin emerged publicly and appeared the next day, at the second session of the Congress. During the attack on the Winter Palace, Lenin spent the night in a room at Smolny, lying on the floor on makeshift pallets side by side with Trotsky, who left from time to time to take the floor at the Congress and answer the opponents of the Bolsheviks. This story is familiar enough to all students of the revolution. The State Publishers published it in Moscow (to name but one source) in Trotsky’s On Lenin, Materials for a Biographer, published April 6, 1924.
But Stalin must erase it. For how can he explain why he, whom all his minions proclaim as Lenin’s co-organizer of the revolution, did not act as spokesman for the Bolsheviks at that session of the Congress? Stalin’s alibi must be established – and for that, Lenin must be joined with him. So Mintz writes:
“Neither Lenin nor Stalin spoke at this sitting of the Congress. The two organizers of the victorious revolution were engaged in work of exceptionally great importance at the time. The Provisional Government had left Petrograd only a two-day supply of bread and flour, hoping in this way to make the Bolsheviks’ first gift to the people – hunger. All day and all night Lenin and Stalin worked at organizing armed detachments, placing a Bolshevik in command of each, and sending them out to search the city, to scour the stations, to open all railroad cars, but to find flour or grain. And on the 26th of October the leaders of the revolution received the report: grain sufficient for ten days had been found.” (Mintz, p. 56.)
So “all day and all night” – the day and night when the conquest of power was at stake – Lenin worked at a task which any minor functionary would have been sufficient to carry out. But Lenin must toil at this administrative task, for otherwise, where is Stalin?
We have chosen one of Stalin’s secondary falsifications of Lenin’s life, in order to show how the very web and woof of that life is rendered meaningless by the Kremlin’s lies.
Yet the distortions of the written record are the least important. The most terrible blows to Lenin’s program are the daily ukases of the Kremlin. The usurpers of Lenin’s mantle are his mortal enemies. In his name they perpetrate the worst crimes against his doctrine.
“The most important, fundamental thing in Bolshevism and in the Russian October Revolution,” declared Lenin, “is the drawing into politics of precisely those who were the most oppressed under capitalism ... The essence of Bolshevism, the essence of Soviet power is in this, in concentrating all state power in the hands of the toilers and the exploited masses.”
What an indictment of Stalin’s regime, with its ruthless extermination of all means of expression for Soviet public opinion, its one-ticket “elections,” its factory-jails, its deification of the Kremlin oligarchy!
Lenin understood that, for the masses to rule, they must have education. Hence the provisions for education in the Program of the Communist Party, adopted March 1919:
“1. Free and compulsory general and polytechnical education for all children of both sexes up to the age of 17 ...
“4. All students must be supplied with food, clothing, footwear, text books and all other school accessories at the expense of the state.”
Stalin has wiped this out. His final step was the ukase of October 2, 1940, abolishing free education and establishing child labor for those thus driven out of the schools. The Stalinist attempts to justify this starkly reactionary move read like pages out of anti-education speeches by Catholic prelates or finance-capitalists in the United States:
“The existence up to now of free education ... and the extension of state subsidies to almost all the students have in some cases produced negative results. A kind of ‘leveling’ process took place. Both the talented and conscientious student, as well as those with little gifts and without inclination to apply themselves, used to be equally subsidized by the state ... Many of our students haven’t really appreciated the boons of higher education which they received without any exertion on their own part. Henceforth the situation is altered. Now, when education and institutions must be paid for, every student will approach his studies with a greater sense of responsibility, and will understand the need of working stubbornly ...
“Free education has to a certain extent lowered the value of education in the eyes of a section of parents and students. Up to now when instruction was free, many parents viewed with equanimity and indifference all facts relating to their children’s lack of success. The introduction of fees ... will impel even such parents to interest themselves systematically concerning how well or poorly their children are studying.” (Pravda, October 22, 1940)
What reactionary American opponent of mass education can improve on this argument of the Kremlin against free education?
The American hirelings of the Kremlin defend this, like everything else. In the January issue of Soviet Russia Today, Jessica Smith writes:
“But in the USSR one does not need to attend college to be an honored member of society. Most honored of all Soviet citizens are those Stakhanovite workers of factory and field who acquired their higher skills working at the bench or driving a tractor ... Thousands of Soviet workers receive their college education while on the job or through correspondence courses. Experience has shown that the best scholastic results are achieved by those students in the higher institutions who have put in several years of practical work before attending college.”
There is no crime of Stalin’s that these prostitutes will riot defend. And in the name of the Lenin who wrote into the fundamental Bolshevik program the principle of universal free elementary and polytechnic education for all up to the age of 17 – the Lenin who wrote that in the midst of the havoc wrought by war and civil war. Twenty-one years after Lenin wrote it, Stalin finally wipes it out altogether. In spirit and most of its content, it has been wiped out for many years.
“Say what is.” That was Lenin’s way. Never to lie to the workers. To tell them the truth, the whole bitter truth, for only thus could victory be achieved. One has only to recall typical remarks of Lenin; they constitute in themselves an annihilating indictment of the Kremlin’s Byzantine doctrine of infallibility:
“It is impermissible to be afraid to acknowledge defeats. One must learn in the experience of defeats ... Were we to permit the viewpoint that the admission of defeats provokes, as does the surrender of positions, apathy and weakening of energy in the struggle, then it is necessary to say that such revolutionists are not worth a damn ... And therefore it is necessary to speak flatly. This is vital and important not only from the standpoint of theoretical truth but also from the practical side. It is impossible to learn how to solve our tasks through new methods today if our experience of yesterday has failed to open our eyes to the incorrectness of the old methods.”
Lenin would not for a moment delude the Soviet workers and hide from them the real situation. They were in great danger; they must be told so. The victory of the revolution in one country was not and could not be a secure victory; they must be told so. That is how he talked, for example, on the third anniversary of the revolution:
“We knew all the time and we will not forget, that our cause is an international cause, and that so long as in all states – including the wealthiest and most civilized – the revolution is not accomplished, so long will our victory remain only half a victory, or perhaps even less.”
In July 1921, Lenin summarized the situation:
“We have got a certain equilibrium, although extremely fragile, extremely unstable, nevertheless such an equilibrium that a socialist republic can exist – of course not for long – in a capitalist environment.”
“Of course not for long” – that was Lenin’s way: Say what is.
Stalin’s policy is the opposite of Lenin’s. Stalin has capitulated to the capitalist environment, to win toleration from the capitalists by serving, now one capitalist group, now another. This policy, the polar opposite of Lenin’s international revolutionary program, cannot be carried out with even lip-service to Lenin’s conceptions. Therefore, while usurping Lenin’s mantle, Stalin had to justify his own policy in words completely alien to those of Lenin. Lenin’s conception was denounced as Trotskyism by Stalin:
“In what consists the essence of Trotskyism?
“The essence of Trotskyism consists in this, that it first of all denies the possibility of constructing socialism in the USSR by the forces of the working class and of the peasantry in our land. What does this mean? This means that if in the near future the victorious world revolution does not come to our assistance then we shall have to capitulate to the world bourgeoisie ... Is it possible when one holds such views to arouse the many-millioned masses of the working class to enthusiasm for toiling, to socialist competition to mass shock-brigadeism ...? ... Deprive them of the assurance of building socialism and you will have successfully destroyed all basis for competition, for raising the productivity of labor, for seeking to become shock brigaders.” (Stalin at the 16th Party Conference, June 27, 1930, Russian edition, p. 51).
These words reveal a world hostile to Lenin in everything. To argue that the possible truth may discourage the workers-Lenin scorned such people as “not worth a damn.” The cynicism of the task-master and bureaucrat leaks out of Stalin’s words and cannot be hidden. He “encourages” the workers, not only with lies, but with jails and firing squads. His is the world of the bureaucratic caste, which has raised itself on the temporary exhaustion of the revolution, which will fall with the resurgence of the revolution, and therefore is incapable of deeds or thoughts except those inimical to the revolution.
There is a note of madness, increasingly more pronounced, in the Stalinist re-writing of the history of the Russian Revolution. The falsifications are ever more crude, and all the more wildly insisted upon. The gap between reality and assertion is at least as deep as that between the world inside and outside an insane asylum. But Stalin and his hirelings must go on trying to bridge this unbridgeable gap. Why? Unless this is understood it is impossible to understand either the internal politics of the Soviet Union or the role of the GPU internationally. To understand it is to understand that Stalinism is in its death agony. The GPU’s murder of Trotsky was a bestial act of vengeance against Leninism; but it was one of the last acts of desperation of the doomed regime of Stalin.
Trotsky explained this just before his assassination:
“There has developed on the foundation of the October revolution a new privileged caste which concentrates in its hands all power and which devours an ever greater portion of the national income ... Stalin’s absolutism does not rest on the traditional authority of ‘divine grace’, nor on ‘sacred’ and ‘inviolable’ private property, but on the idea of communist equality. This deprives the oligarchy of a possibility of justifying its dictatorship with any kind or rational and persuasive arguments ... The ruling caste is compelled systematically to lie, to paint itself up, don a mask, and ascribe to critics and opponents motives diametrically opposite to those impelling them. Anyone who comes out in defense of the toilers against the oligarchy is immediately branded by the Kremlin as a supporter of capitalist restoration. This standardized lie is not accidental: it flows from the objective position of the caste which incarnates reaction while swearing by the revolution ... Lies, slander, persecution, false accusations, juridical comedies, flow inexorably from the position of the usurping bureaucracy in Soviet society.”
Lenin’s program still lives in the foundations of the Soviet Union, in the nationalized economy, in the hearts and minds of the Soviet peoples. The Stalinist bureaucracy, in its very lies and crimes, involuntarily recognizes that it has failed to extirpate the October revolution. Internationally, Lenin’s program lives on in the program of the Trotskyist movement. Just as the totalitarian regime of the Kremlin has failed to destroy the foundations of the Russian Revolution within the borders of the Soviet Union, so it has failed in all its desperate attempts to destroy our movement throughout the world. We have buried our dead only to return all the more irreconcilably to the struggle for Lenin’s program.
Lenin’s program will be the program of the human race. Our Memorial to Lenin can be nothing less than that.
1. State and Revolution, Chap.1.
Last updated on 27 February 2016