Thursday, December 27, 2012

Lenin's Political Genius - Sam Welles (1948)

My grandpa - Sam Welles - outlined in his book - Profile of Europe
Lenin's political genius as well as the "plotter's revolution" of October 1917 that followed the
 February 1917 democratic revolution. He said, "There has probably never been a colder, clearer, more cynical and complete logician of power than Lenin."

          Lenin was one of the greatest statesmen who ever lived, as Marx was one of the greatest emotional-philosophical forces. There has probably never been a colder, clearer, more cynical and complete logician of power than Lenin. Stalin has learned the master's lesson well. But he is an imitator, not a pioneer in Lenin's class.
          Lenin kidnapped a state. Too few Americans remember that it was not the Communists who turned out the czars. In February 1917, the Russian people, without any help from Lenin (who was then in exile in Switzerland), revolted. The people overthrew the czar, freed political prisoners, speech and the press. They organized the only free election in Russia's history. The Russian people knew what they wanted; Lenin knew better. Lenin said: "The people themselves do not know what is good or bad for them."
          Lenin organized not a people's but a plotter's revolution. One night, eight months after the February revolution, his men seized the key points in Petrograd. They grabbed the telegraph office to "telegraph the revolution to the provinces." They kidnapped the members of the democratic Provisional Government and took their place. That was the October 1917 Revolution, the one the Communists made. Lenin then re-established the czarist-type secret police which the democratic revolution had abolished, and used spies as well as force to keep his power. Communists, who constantly rewrite history for their own purposes, now often talk as if there had been only one 1917 Revolution. Some "scholarly" American works, deliberately or not, make the same assumption. There were two Russian revolutions that year. What might have happened had the Communists not wrecked the first, democratic revolution is one of the greatest - and saddest - if's in history.
          At the time of Lenin's coup the Bolsheviks (as the Communists were then, as now, officially called) were a minor party that numbered only 200,000 in a state of 160 million people. The free election arranged by the democratic Russian government was only a month off. Lenin could not stop it and he did not have time to fake very much of it. When the Russians made their one free trip to the polls, Lenin and his Communists were voted out. They got only 156 seats in the 601-member Constituent Assembly. A clear majority, 320 seats, went to the Social Revolutionary Party. Lenin, the apostle of power, knew the answer. When the Assembly met, he at once dispersed it with the bayonets of his Lettish Regiment. Russia entered a 1918-21 civil war that killed twice as many Russians as the Germans had in 1914-1918.
          Lenin's genius lay in knowing how to use what little power his little party had to keep control and gradually to tighten the Communists' stranglehold on Russia. Lenin had the political genius of the highest - and most ruthless - order. He said, "Religion is the opiate of the people," and then used promises to drug people with. He used fear on a prodigious scale - and "fear" is still the key word with Russians, up to and including Stalin. He originated the Communists' use of strategic retreat. He made peace with the Germans at Brest-Litovsk early in 1918, yielding vast territories so he could concentrate on his civil war to win the rest of Russia. He initiated the New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1921, which gave Russia's businessmen a chance to do their own trading in a Communist state, because Russian industry was paralyzed and the capitalist incentive was the only thing that could get it started again. He made such concessions when the Communists were too weak not to make them, never otherwise. As soon as he could, we went back on them.
          Lenin said of NEP soon after he announced it: "We have met a great defeat, and are now making a strategic retreat. All our military successes were preceded by similar retreats. Afterward we began a cautious advance, finally crowned with victory." After Germany collapsed in 1918, Lenin tore up the Brest-Litovsk treaty and recovered as much of that territory as he could. He had started turning the screws on NEP before he died; Stalin completed the process and abolished it in 1928.
          What Lenin said is the best clue to him - and a striking clue to Communism. Here are some quotations from him:

"There are no morals in politics; there is only expediency. A scoundrel may be of us to us just because he's a scoundrel." 

"It does not matter that Comrade Krassikov had squandered party funds in a brothel, but it is scandalous that this should have disorganized the transportation of illegal literature." 

(When the head of his secret police brought in the day's list of arrests and suspects): "Shoot those two, hold these five, and let the rest go." 

"We shall ask: on which side are you? For or against the Revolution? If against - we shoot you! If for - follow us and work!" (Lenin's devoted wife Krupskaya offered one of her few objections when he uttered this dictum. She said: "That way you'll kill off all the best ones, all those with the courage of their convictions.") […]

"We cannot live in peace; memorial services will be sung either over the Soviet republic or over world capitalism. But until this takes place, the principle rule is to dodge and maneuver. We have to use any ruse, dodge, trick, cunning, unlawful methods, veiling of the truth." 

 "We shall destroy everything , and on the ruins we all erect our temple…Take, for instance, the bourgeoisie - or democracy, if you prefer that term. It is doomed, and in abolishing it, we are only completing the inescapable historical process." 

"I do not care what will become of Russia, to hell with it! All this is only a road to world revolution." 

          By the time Lenin died, the Soviet pattern was set. The "excesses" that are the present and future worry of the whole world had developed. Stalin has merely followed Lenin's lead. With minor personal variations, Trotsky or any other Russian Communist leader would have done the same. As Sir John Maynard, one of the most careful and thorough students of Russia, has written of Stalin and Trotsky: "I cannot myself, after close study of Trotsky's recorded opinions, detect with certainty any ideological difference between the two men."


On back of book:

          Sam Welles Author of Profile of Europe is an associate editor of Time and one of its top foreign news writers. During the war he served for three years in the State Department and in our London Embassy, where he was the Special Assistant to Ambassador Winant.
          At Oxford University, on a Rhodes Scholarship after Princeton, he took an honors degree in modern history. Ever since 1935 has spent a considerable part of his time traveling over Europe. In one thirty-nine month period he logged more than 100,000 miles from Connemarra to Constantinople; and during the Conference of Foreign Ministers in Moscow he walked more than 300 miles through that city and its suburbs. In the months that followed, he visited sixteen other countries, making his way across most of them by car. His equipment-including extra cans of gas, spare tires, tools, food and mountains of documents- would almost have outfitted a polar explorer.

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