What are "knots"? Only isolation. How does one survive decades of failed conferences, idiotic alliances, betrayals, theoretical debates, detailed research into the history of revolution, and so forth? Well, one has to be relatively iron-willed and not a little monomaniacal. He was a bully and a schemer who reminds me of the negotiating style of one Washington potentate I knew: you get your way in a negotiation by being the first to break it off

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One fighting campaign after another — against political stupidities, philistinism, opportunism and so forth. Many a time, it is the case that a great leader gets his best compliments from his foes. With regards to Lenin, one should credit Alexander Solzhenitsyn with creating one of the most vivid portraits of the man.

Lenin in Zurich is a truly insightful and engaging account of Lenin in the immediate period before the Russian Revolution, as he was contemplating his future and that of his people as an exile in Switzerland. The author undertook considerable archival research before commencing this book.

A different Lenin? Solzhenitsyn, an anti-communist and Russophile, does not paint a flattering portrait of Lenin. He does not hold Stalin alone responsible for the Soviet disaster, but lays the blame on Lenin and his associates too.

It is interesting to note here that after decrying the dictatorial tendencies of the Russian communists for the best part of his writing career, Solzhenitsyn, towards the end of his life, expressed a great admiration for Vladimir Putin. However, Solzhenitsyn does not demonise Lenin either.

A straightforward conservative, his account of Lenin is more appealing compared to left-liberal and revisionist takes on Lenin. Solzhenitsyn notes how Lenin had an instrumentalist approach to most men and women in his life, their levels of importance graded by their potential utility to the cause of the Revolution. Inessa Armand was the exception. Lenin often engaged in polemical debates with her and often, as with others with whom he locked horns, emerged victor. His thinking on the subject of love and multiple relationships might appear to some as social conservativism, but we must recognise here that Lenin, like Marx, was no fan of philandering and sexual radicalism.

The latter believed that true love expressed itself through reticence and modesty. Lenin, an organizer par excellence, not only realised that libertarian sexual radicalism was non-proletarian, but also that it would greatly hamper the iron discipline of a revolutionary party.

While he did hold her as an intellectual-lover in great passionate regard, he also applied restraint and created a distance when required. In Freud-speak, one can also say that it was the sublimation of his desires that enabled Lenin to emerge as the leader of the Revolution.

While Lenin did not believe in moderation in Revolution, he was, much like his approach towards free love, acerbically sceptical of the infantile spirit and hollow radical rhetoric. Solzhenitsyn details the theoretical meticulousness of Lenin. He was ready to make some practical compromises — like his willingness to strike a bargain with Alexander Parvus to be smuggled back into Russia with German help — but was resolute in avoiding even a minor theoretical error.

Solzhenitsyn brings out Lenin as a cold theoretician and a shrewd realist who is irascible and contemptuous towards the common man. But while critics in USSR which was socialist only in name at the time of publication of LIZ saw this as ungenerous condemnation, one should creatively look at this as a compliment.

Glorification of, and overidentification with, the common man, the underdog, the mob, is not just a cheap populist manoeuvre, it also helps tyrannies secure moral legitimacy for themselves. The Stalinist state and the vulgar mutilations that Mao and Pol Pot subjected Marxism to were possible only by appealing to the common man. Stalin genuinely believed that he represented the will of the average man and hence sought to dumb down all philosophy, art and culture to the level of the average man.

Mao and Pol Pot took this absurdity further. They cynically respected the initiative of the masses, and choreographed senseless and self-defeating orgies of violence in the name of Cultural Revolution and Year Zero so as to create a new people by killing all those they thought were representative of the old. Lenin, on the other hand, had no respect for the herd.

He did not believe in limitless possibilities of socialism and was cautious on what could be achieved and how it could be defended and expanded. He favored theoretical rigour to overtures to mass sentiments. If he gorged on classical philosophy and Hegel during his exile instead of mingling with the people, it was to strengthen the praxis of socialism.

He wanted the masses to be raised to the level of advanced revolutionaries — Maoist thinking is repelled by the thought of anything more advanced than peasant simplicity. Lenin had contempt for the votaries of proletarian culture as he felt that the high culture of the bourgeois could only be effectively ousted by something better, not by celebrating the mediocre.

More power to that Lenin! From dictators in Africa, through warlords in Afghanistan, to Islamists who blow up civilians in Paris, they are all seen with sympathy, ironically, along with sexual libertarians and multiculturalists whom the former groups would ruthlessly persecute in their zones of power. Unfortunately, directionless mass protests like Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring also do not provide a way out.

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Lenin in Zürich

This damned muddle over permanent revolution was another reason why he, Parvus I read this as a follow-up to his Augustas it contains the missing censored Chapter Captures the spirit of the time pretty well, I think. He just seems to have hated it and everything it stood for. Feb 16, Jenny rated it liked it. He writes the character of Lenin himself in the solzhenitsyyn person, and most of the thoughts he ascribes to him are contemptuous of the masses, of the aristocrats and of the bourgeois. So yes, I can see why some people claim Lenin is overly portrayed as a really humane guy compared to Stalin, who was there at the onset of all of this and is frequently mentioned by his nickname of Koba. Joel rated it really liked it Jan 12, He was a bully and a schemer zuich reminds me of the negotiating style of one Washington potentate I knew: The other two were always somewhere ahead or still far behind.



JoJogore Time is rushing by now, and it may be too late. The missing chapters do not make you feel any lack of continuity except for the jumps in chapter numbers. Solzhenitsyn excels here in decompressing the refined image zkrich Lenin at the barricades and letting us see his endlessly disciplined, boring, often fruitless efforts alexanfer get to those barricades. Of course Solzhenitsyn, who suffered under communism, must have hated Lenin, and yet with artistic fortitude and imagination, grounded in substantial research, he portrays the bald little man with the slits xolzhenitsyn eyes with compelling fidelity and in disturbing detail. An introspective Lenin is not what I expected.

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