Wright Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

John G. Wright

Lenin’s Record Speaks
Against His Slanderers

(14 January 1949)

From The Militant, Vol. 13 No. 4, 14 January 1949, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Lenin was still on his sick-bed when the Stalinist bureaucracy – then just beginning its rise to power – started its systematic work of distorting and falsifying the teachings of this great working-class fighter, thinker and leader. Today, a quarter of a century after Lenin’s death we find this monstrous campaign at its very peak.

Nor are the Kremlin liars and forgers the only ones who seek to palm off Stalin as the “best disciple’’ and the legitimate heir and continuator of Lenin. For reasons of their own, the Social Democrats, traditional enemies of Leninism, are busy doing exactly the same thing. Adding its bit, is the new draft of renegades from among the newest converts to American imperialism, gentlemen like Max Eastman, Sydney Hook and the like. And behind all of them is the full weight of Wall Street’s propaganda mill, dinning in the workers’ ears night and day that Stalin and Lenin are allegedly “one and the same.”

The capitalists and their henchmen seek, of course, to use Stalin’s crimes in order to discredit Lenin and what he really stood for. The Stalinists, for their part, try to use Lenin’s mantle the better to deceive the workers and to cover up the Kremlin treachery and infamy. The two sides pursue different ends, but the same big lie happens to serve the purposes of each.

No Identity at All

There can be no greater violation of historical truth than an attempt to establish an identity between them. Lenin’s entire life, his great talents and genius were exclusively devoted to the liberationist struggle of the world working class. Not only did Lenin refuse at any time to serve any other cause, but he resolutely rejected in this connection the slightest wavering or compromise in theory and practice alike.

Lenin had genuine love for the working masses and unwavering faith in their power and mission. He saw no nobler goal in life than to articulate the hopes and aspirations of the oppressed, to raise their self-confidence, increase their ability to act, liberate the vast creative forces latent among them and in every way to organize their struggle for socialism. Nothing was more ignoble in his eyes than to side in any way whatever with the strong and powerful against the oppressed. His writings are imbued with this spirit. No other Russian political leader was so beloved by the masses. His memory still lives in the minds of millions as it will for generations to come throughout the world.

Stalin was attracted to the revolutionary movement not by its great liberationist ideas but by the organizational power of Lenin’s party. It was his hatred and envy of the rich and the powerful and not any deep concern for the poor and downtrodden that led Stalin to rebel against the Czarist rulers. Stalin’s earliest writings bear indelible imprints of his deep-seated mistrust of the masses (which was later to grow into fear and hatred); of his ineptitude in the sphere of ideas (which was later to be converted into contempt for the power of ideas); of his unbounded faith in the power of the apparatus (which he was later to convert into an instrument of bestial oppression.)

Stalin started as a revolutionist and that is to his undeniable credit. But he used his revolutionary record only to end up as the mortal enemy of revolutionary socialism, as the ruthless defender of the powers and privileges of the bureaucracy on whose shoulders he rode to power. It is doubtful Whether any other ruler in Russia’s black past was more hated than Stalin is by the mass df the people.

All Down The Line

The differences between Lenin and Stalin pass from the heights of theoretical thought all the way down the line. Lenin was an internationalist to his very marrow, teaching the Russian workers never to approach any major political problem at home from other standpoint, and to subordinate their immediate interests to the long range interests of the world socialist struggle. Stalin’s outstanding mental trait is provincialism. His self-proclaimed theory of “socialism in one country” is the reactionary product of an ignorant mind, incapable of rising above narrow nationalism. If Stalin has instilled anything in the Russian masses it is the virus of Great Russian nationalism.

Lenin correctly prided himself on remaining throughout an orthodox Marxist. In his eyes, Marxism – as a unified system of ideas, as a method of thinking and as a guide to action – Was the most advanced conquest of the human intellect. An audacious and supremely gifted thinker, Lenin enriched Marxism in many key spheres.

To list only a few of his outstanding contributions, there is his analysis of the modern or imperialist stage of capitalism which has ushered in the epoch of world Wars and proletarian and colonial revolutions. There is his work on the natioftal and colonial questions and the key role of oppressed minorities and colonial peoples in the world revolutionary process.

Lenin’s crowning achievements were, of course, his contributions as the architect of the Russian Revolution and of the first workers state. An inseparable part of this historic accomplishment was Lenin’s building of the Russian Bolshevik Party and the subsequent creation of the Third International.

Stalin’s Real Role

What was Stalin’s part in all this? The Kremlin has falsified history so as to usurp for Stalin the role of Lenin’s closest collaborator – in the October days, during the Civil War, in the early years of the Communist International and of the Soviet Union – a role, that was actually played by Leon. Trotsky. Stalin’s role in this entire period, as well as in the earlier history of Russian Bolshevism, was a minor and obscure one. Moreover Stalin opposed Lenin or intrigued behind the scenes against him far more frequently than he worked with Lenin. He came to the fore only after Lenin’s death, not as a representative of the revolutionary vanguard but as the champion of rising Soviet bureaucracy. His true role has been that of gravedigger of Lenin’s party and Lenin’s International. He has served as the chief instrument in the degeneration of the Soviet Union.

It is a mockery even to talk of Stalin’s “contributions” to Marxism-Leninism. Stalin’s ideas are, without exception, borrowed either from the cesspool of imperialist politics or the no less polluted channels of revisionist and opportunist thought and practice. Stalin’s People’s Front policies merely reproduce under new historical conditions what was done by the Russian Mensheviks under Kerensky or by the German Social Democrats under the Kaiser. His deals with the Nazis as well as his later deals with the “democratic” powers were conducted in the vile tradition of imperialist diplomacy.

Nothing in Common

He was not even the initiator of Soviet industrialization, let alone of planned economy, as is fraudulently claimed. On the contrary, it will never be blotted out of history that Stalin up to 1929 ruthlesslv opposed the Trotskyist Opposition in Russia, the real proponents of the Five-Year Plans and of Soviet industrialization. It was, in fact, the struggle of this isolated minority that compelled the Stalinists to take the road of planning.

If there is any single idea to which Stalin has adhered consistently it is that brute force is the decisive power in history. His entire world-outlook inav be summed un in the proposition that the survival of any regime, past, future or present, depends exclusively on whether it employs the brute force at its disposal in ample time and ruthlessly enough. Violence over men’s minds and bodies, violence, violence and still more violence – that is the quintessence of Stalinism.

What has this modern Genghis Khan in common with Lenin who was the embodiment of an entirely different type of warrior, the fighter for the socialist emancipation of mankind? Nothing whatever.

Defended Democracy

In Lenin we have one of the most consistent fighters for democracy that ever lived. He fought above all for workers’ democracy, placing its interests correctly above all else. But NOT to the exclusion of everything else. He taught the Russian workers to be extremely sensitive to the demands of all the oppressed minorities and colonial peoples. In this field, Lenin insisted, the workers, especially when they come to power, must make every possible concession.

The right of self-determination, including the right of secession, was written into the first Soviet constitution. It was no empty phrase; it was the gist of Lenin’s teachings on the national question. Under Lenin this right was safeguarded jealously, even to the point of extending recognition to the setting up of capitalist Finland, Esthonia, Lithuania and other Baltic countries in his lifetime.

The only ones to whom Lenin ever denied democratic rights were the oppressors fighting arms in hand to maintain their rule or to overthrow the established power of the workers or of the oppressed nationalities and colonial peoples.

They lie deliberately who tell the workers that under Lenin there existed the same dictatorial regime as under Stalin. The democi;atic liberties of the masses and above all of their mass organizations – the Soviets, the trade-unions, the peasant cooperatives, and the Bolshevik Party itself – were jealously safeguarded so long as Lenin lived. The real continuators of Lenin, Trotsky and his followers began their struggle in the USSR against Stalinism under the banner of extending and preserving Lenin’s democratic regime, just as they struggle for its re-introduction today.

USSR – Then and Now

All the detractors of Lenin bank on the younger generation’s ignorance of the facts about the Soviet Union in Lenin’s day. The truth is that Lenin’s regime inspired the oppressed working people the world over with its progressive legislation, guaranteeing full economic, social and political equality of all nationalities and races.

The right of the youth to a full education and to a living while they learned was assured. Working women were granted paid vacations while pregnant and free medical and hospital care. Birth control was legalized. Scientists were given full freedom to carry oh their work. Art, music and writing then flowered in the Soviet Union. Nowhere did such progressive legislation, cultural ferment and freedom of thought exist as in the first workers state.

That is what the Soviet Union looked like in the days of Lenin and Trotsky. Why did it degenerate?

First of all, because of the frightful pressure of the capitalist powers who tried to drown the new workers regime in blood. When this did not succeed, world capitalism clamped a strangulating blockade on the USSR. The revolution was isolated.

Secondly, because Russia was one of the most backward countries in the world. Out of this vast sea of backwardness and isolation welled the Stalin regime of counter-revolution.

Thirdly, because even under the best of conditions the tasks of socialism cannot be solved in a single country. Socialism requires the united efforts of a number of countries, including the most highly advanced.

Role of Parties

But weren’t all other parties in the Soviet Union outlawed under Lenin and Trotsky as well? Those who point to this historical accident as proof of the identity of the past and present regimes in the USSR, omit a trifle. They hide the fact that no other party in Russia at the time was willing to place itself on the basis of Soviet power.

The Russian Mensheviks were not expelled from the Soviets, they walked out demonstratively, most of them to take sides with the White Guards in the Civil War that followed. The original Soviet government was a coalition of two parties – the Bolsheviks and the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, the party of the revolutionary peasants. The Left S.R.’s were not driven from the seats of power, but resigned and then rose in an armed insurrection against the government in which they themselves participated. Every other party, without exception, was engaged either in open struggle or overt conspiracy to overthrow the power of the Soviet. It was this set of circumstances, under conditions of four years of civil warfare, that brought about one-party rule in the USSR.

Far from considering the Russian developments as a fixed and unalterable political pattern for the rest of the world, Lenin repeatedly stressed that the Russian Revolution and the young Soviet Republic were only the beginning, only the first forms, lie expected that the Western European proletariat, in the first instance the workers of Germany, would “finish” the job the Russian workers had started and show them “how it is done.” Although his expectations remained unfulfilled, Lenin never changed his mind on this score. To the end of his life, he confidently predicted that: every other people on the face of our planet would make its great contributions to the evolution of the workers state and the world federation of these independent states. He further predicted a flowering of democracy, on this new social soil, such as the world had never seen.

A Typical Episode

In the life of every human being there are episodes that epitomize the inmost character. One such episode in Lenin’s life casts an illuminating light on his views concerning the use and abuse of power, the crux of all questions relating to the problems of democracy. One of Stalin’s closest friends and a prominent Georgian Bolshevik, Ordjonikidze, slapped, during a conversation, a young comrade.

When Lenin heard of this, he immediately demanded the removal of this man from all governmental and party posts and his suspension for two years from the Bolshevik Party. This same Ordjonikidze became one of the pillars of Stalin’s regime.

Finally, it is a historical fact that Lenin on his death-bed broke all personal relations with Stalin and was preparing to lead a political struggle against the very man who has since posed as his “heir.” One of the last acts of Lenin was to demand Stalin’s removal from the post of General-Secretary of the Party. He recognized Stalin for what he really is, namely, an enemy of everything that Lenin himself was and stood for.

Wright Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 4 March 2024