Being Bolshie

I have just finished Robert Service’s biography of Vladimir Ulyanov, better known to the world as Lenin. At 500 pages, it was not a quick read, but it plugged the many gaps in my knowledge. Although Lenin was wonderfully intelligent, dedicated, principled and hard-working, he was also cruel, arrogant, cold and obsessed. If one wishes to understand the paradox between human creativity and utter depravity- read a good biography.

The horrors of Stalinism have overshadowed the Terror unleashed by Lenin. He is sometimes portrayed as the 'good Bolshevik', but only because his successor was so horrifically appalling. Although I am not a natural fan of the Orthodox faith, he unleashed death squads in 1920 to murder priests, calling his colleague Sklyanski's killing schedule “a beautiful plan”, and offering a large cash reward for each one hanged. For Lenin, Christianity was just another tenet of tsarism, a branch of aristocratic and royal privilege, ripe for sweeping away. Although the man himself had some admirable qualities on a personal level, he kept on his Kremlin desk a statue of an ape sitting on some books written by Darwin. The stronger, fitter working classes had to brush aside and destroy the degenerate and decadent upper classes, with their petty morality and religious belief.

Thus Lenin despised religion, and was appalled when staying in London, in 1902, to witness British socialists praying at church in Seven Sisters. Yet it was in a Congregational Chapel, (Brotherhood Church, Islington) in 1907 when he and others held their fifth Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, the forerunner of the Russian Communist Party. The British Left had its roots in Christianity; the Russian Left, in hard atheism. Lenin saw the oppression and inequalities of tsarism but replaced it with something actually worse. Russian communism was a medicine which caused more pain and death than the disease it was trying to cure. For example, Lenin had spent much of his life hunted by the Okhrana, the tsar’s secret police, yet his own security force, the Cheka, was generally more brutal in its methods and less forgiving in its identification of enemies. Enthroned in the Kremlin, he exercised greater power than ever Nicolai Romanov was able to muster.

When godless men seek to build a New Jerusalem without God, they create a hell on earth. His dying months saw him pathetically try and prevent the rise of Iosif Stalin, who was almost certain to succeed him. Unfortunately, the monster he created survived the dying revolutionary’s change of heart. One monster begat another, one even worse. Illich will answer for his crimes to the God whose existence he rejected, and whose servants he cheerfully hanged.


Image by Alexei Chizhov from Pixabay