Abusing Lenin


Criticising or even throwing lampoons at V I Lenin has seemingly become a fashion. Criticism of Lenin has proceeded so far on two different broad lines. One is that Lenin did not properly follow, or even distorted, Marx's teaching on revolution. Discussions and debates have been going on in a continuous manner on this subject. The other is a crude one, trying to paint Lenin as an autocrat like the Tsarist rulers of pre-revolutionary Russia. This correspondent had recently an opportunity to go through an article by Ramchandra Guha (The Telegraph, 17 March) where it is asserted (not argued) that Lenin was a cruel autocrat as Tsars were. The leader writer has ostensibly found it convenient to eschew the question of 'class' in making such an assessment. Which class or classes did the Tsar of Russia represent? And which class or classes did Lenin aspire to represent? These are fundamental issues which no honest commentator should try to avoid.

The leader-writer mentions the name of Bhagat Singh, suggesting that his statue, instead of Lenin's, should have been installed. It needs to be pointed out here whatever their differences in outlook and vision, Lenin and Bhagat Singh had one thing in common. Both were avowed enemies of British imperialism. Bhagat Singh courted martyrdom for the cause of liberating India from British rule. On the other hand, the British government was a party to the armed intervention by western powers to destroy the newly formed Bolshevik state. Lenin hailed the textile workers' strike in Bombay (now Mumbai), calling it a conscious political struggle prelude to the end of the satanic game of British imperialism in India. Immediately after Lenin's death, the Statesman, then the mouthpiece of the British community in India, reported the event as the death of the 'notorious Bolshevik leader'. The leader writer has only echoed the same sentiment, although in different words. The Tsardom, however, was an ally of the British government in the First World War.

One more piece of information may be given. After Lenin's death, a person named Jatindra Prasad Bhattacharya, who was the principal employee of a zamindari estate of Mymensingh (now in Bangaladesh), wrote a fairly long poem on him and managed to get it published in a Kolkata-based Bengali monthly. He was on the point of being arrested by the British administration. Thanks to the effort of the officer-in-charge of the local police station, he was saved. The police officer was personally in good terms with the poet and somehow managed to convince the English District Magistrate that the poem was a product of emotion. On his suggestion, the poet also wrote a poem glorifying the British crown so as to mislead the district magistrate and thus to escape arrest. The episode, along with a reprint of the poem, was reported by Saroj Dutta in the autumn number of Swadhinata, the Bengali organ of the CPI, in 1959.

In order to make a proper assessment of V I Lenin's life and career, one must undertake a careful study of his principal political, economic and philosophical writings. Without doing so, calling him a Tsar-like autocrat represents the height of ignorance, if not mischievous intent. Critical evaluation of Lenin and Bolshevik power may, however, go on, and there is nothing objectionable in it.

Vol. 50, No.39, Apr 1 - 7, 2018