Monday, October 23, 2017

Who Was Vladimir Lenin?

Apparently, American students no longer know anything about history. They know how to complain about their grievances. They even know how to protest. They know how to find safe spaces where they can suck their thumbs and hug their blankies.

They love socialism… so much so that if you take the Trump tax plan and tell students that it was proposed by superannuated socialist Bernie Sanders, they immediately support it.

They have been so thoroughly disembarrassed of their rational faculties that they cannot examine a policy position and formulate an opinion. They are like cult followers who will believe anything their cult leader proposed.

For reasons that escape me, the New York Times has run a few articles purporting to present a fair and balanced approach to Communism. You recall the most famous argument: while everyone was starving to death and living in abject misery, women were having more orgasms. Don’t think that Communism forgot about women.

For those who could not have forgotten history—because they never knew it in the first place—the Times offers a column by esteemed novelist Martin Amis about none other than Vladimir Lenin. Since the grossly overrated Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek has happily embraced the worst of Lenin’s legacy, it is time to offer an analysis of the phenomenon of Leninism. If you want to find out which of your friends is an intellectual pretender, apply this formula: anyone who thinks that Zizek is a great thinker does not know how to think.

Amis begins with the most salient point, a point so salient that I made it myself in regard to Sigmund Freud, in my book The Last Psychoanalyst. Whether in the hands of Freud, Marx or Heidegger, great revolutionaries were dismayed to see that their theories did not work in practice. Rather than modify their theories, they decided that human nature was defective and needed to be changed. Keep this in mind before you start whining about who is or is not ignoring facts.

Amis writes:

The chief demerit of the Marxist program was its point-by-point defiance of human nature. Bolshevik leaders subliminally grasped the contradiction almost at once; and their rankly Procrustean answer was to leave the program untouched and change human nature. In practical terms this is what “totalitarianism” really means: On their citizens such regimes make “a total claim.”

The following is from “the secret archive,” published as “The Unknown Lenin” (1996), and the entry is dated March 1922: “It is precisely now and only now, when in the starving regions people are eating human flesh, and hundreds if not thousands of corpses are littering the roads, that we can (and therefore must) …” At this point the unversed reader might pause to wonder how the sentence will go forward. Something like “pursue all avenues of amelioration and relief,” perhaps?

But no. This is Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the leader of “a party of a new type,” who continues: “… carry out the confiscation of church valuables with the most savage and merciless energy. … Precisely at this moment we must give battle to [the clergy] in the most decisive and merciless manner and crush its resistance with such brutality that it will not forget it for decades to come. … The greater the number of representatives of the reactionary clergy and reactionary bourgeoisie we succeed in executing for this reason, the better.” Church records show that 1,962 monks, 2,691 priests and 3,447 nuns were killed in that year alone. Religion, you see, was part of human nature, so the Bolsheviks were obliged to suppress it in all its forms (including Islam and Buddhism).

The fun part is that Communism was the most ambitious and radical attempt to create an atheist civilization. Nowadays, we still have legions of atheists who believe that rejecting religion makes them enlightened. Of course, none of our atheist contingent believes that when you create an atheist civilization you get Lenin and Mao and Communism. 

This is very strange indeed. People who hew to the value of empirical science and pragmatic thought reject real world results that tend to disprove their theories. We are obliged to conclude that they are not promoting rational thought but are proselytizing an ideology.

5 comments:

trigger warning said...

Some "people who [claim to] hew to the value of empirical science and pragmatic thought" go so far as to describe themselves as gigantic meat robots directed by a molecule.

I tend to take their word for it, and afford them all the intellectual consideration such a creature naturally deserves.

Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: Of course, none of our atheist contingent believes that when you create an atheist civilization you get Lenin and Mao and Communism.

So the assertion here apparently is that organized religion is the defense against authoritarian tyranny??? Maybe we should mention that to ISIS?

The nice thing about atheists as best I can tell, at least the sensible ones, is they believe in the first amendment. They don't want to argue with people who see religious doctrine at the final argument.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Surely there are people on all sides of anything who will find an attractive impulse to dictatorship, justified as the benevolent dictator ideal, even if that never ends up true in reality. We all have our moments that it seems so simplifying to the messiness of life.

James said...

Not only did Lenin and communists think that/know that people are intrinsically flawed and needed "perfection", but they forgot that they themselves were human and intrinsically flawed therefore incapable of applying any plan that claims "perfection" without committing error. This applies to all human endeavor, politics, religion, mass transit, grocery shopping, and any and everything humans do. Oh, Oh, I'm getting philosophical here, to the "stool of silence".

Gringo said...

Stuart: Of course, none of our atheist contingent believes that when you create an atheist civilization you get Lenin and Mao and Communism.


None of the "atheist contingent believes that," but the harsh reality is that Real Existing Communism featured, among other things, an attempt to stomp out religion and create an atheist civilization. That is, the "atheist contingent" is shutting its eyes to what happened.

What atheists did in the Soviet Union should be a warning to atheists who smugly believe that they are the enlightened ones fighting against religious bigots.
Disclaimer: I am not, nor have ever been, a churchgoer.

Gringo said...


The nice thing about atheists as best I can tell, at least the sensible ones, is they believe in the first amendment. They don't want to argue with people who see religious doctrine at the final argument.

The sensible ones, perhaps, but we also have militant atheists, who do not have a live and let live attitude.

Church ladies knock on my door now and then, but a polite statement that "I am not interested" sends them on their way.