Myths About

There are countless lies and slanders made up by the enemies of the working class to discredit Lenin and the idea of revolution in general.

We think it is time to set the record straight.

Below you will find short answers to some of the most common lies about Lenin. Each one has been taken from longer articles and books, which are linked below.

Was Lenin a dictator?

Lenin is often maligned as a dictatorial brute, who pursued his own grand designs against the will of those around him. This, however, could not be further from the truth. Lenin always defended freedom of discussion within the Bolshevik Party and was never afraid to be in the minority. It was on this basis – and no other – that Lenin won support for his ideas.

Lenin certainly had authority – but this did not come from waving a big stick. What he possessed was something more powerful: namely a political and moral authority. He possessed the power of ideas, nothing more. Lenin provided the theoretical anchor to the Bolsheviks. Every question, every difference, was used to raise the political and theoretical level of the party for the tasks that lay ahead.

Restricting the counter-revolution

Some opponents of Lenin like to point to the banning of rival left-wing groups such as the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries as evidence of Lenin’s ‘dictatorial’ streak. In reality, in the conditions of Civil War after the Revolution, the Bolsheviks’ actions were not only justified, but if anything excessively mild!

The Bolsheviks were very soft in the early period, allowing counter-revolutionary generals to go free! They broke their promises and again waged war on the Reds. Lenin was shot in 1918 and Trotsky’s train was nearly blown up.

It was this that forced the Soviets to hit back and launch the ‘red terror’, as a matter of self-defence. The Civil War lasted from 1918 until 1920, causing terrible death and destruction. It was during the Civil War that bourgeois parties, including the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries were banned. The reason was that they openly supported the counter-revolution. In the same way, in the Second World War, Britain banned the British Union of Fascists and imprisoned Oswald Mosley.

Freedom of discussion under Lenin

In addition, the Bolshevik Party was extremely democratic and had a lively internal life. It enjoyed a degree of freedom that caused the historian E.H. Carr to remark that such has rarely been equalled by any other party in the world. Under Lenin, the party’s factions could speak out without fear or favour, engage in heated debate, but remain comrades-in-arms. It was a school of hard knocks, but nothing more.

Lenin was never afraid of being in a minority, which was the case on different occasions. He was initially in a minority of one in the Party in April 1917 and had to wage a struggle for his ideas. In the most heated discussion in the party over the negotiations at the end of the First World War, Lenin was more often than not in a minority in the Central Committee and even within the rank and file. This simply highlights how democratic the internal regime of the Bolshevik party was.

The democracy of the Bolshevik Party was destroyed later by Stalin and the emerging Stalinist bureaucracy. These bureaucrats put an end to the democracy within the state and within the party, turning it into a Stalinist monolith where all dissent was stamped out. Lenin fought against this bureaucratic degeneration with all his strength. In fact, the last fight of his political life was in a bloc with Trotsky against Stalin and the rise of party bureaucracy. His last writings were an attempt to deal with this threat of bureaucratic degeneration and the rise of dictatorial methods within the party.

Did Lenin commit atrocities in the civil war?

Many apologists of capitalism and right-wing propagandists promote the slander that Lenin was responsible for countless deaths and needless violence during the Civil War following the Russian Revolution. 

First of all, this claim conveniently ignores the innumerable needless deaths that imperialist wars have caused under capitalism. Secondly, more than anything else, these accusations against Lenin are patently untrue.

A lot of noise is made about the so-called Red Terror and the violent means used by the Revolution to defend itself. But what is conveniently forgotten is that the actual October Revolution was virtually peaceful. The real bloodbath occurred in the Civil War when the Soviet republic was invaded by 21 foreign armies. The Bolsheviks inherited a ruined country and a shattered army. They were immediately faced with an armed rebellion by reactionary officers, and later by the armies of foreign intervention. At one stage, the Soviet power was reduced to just two provinces. Yet the Bolsheviks managed to beat back the counter-revolution. 

War necessarily involves violence, and Civil War more than any other. The weak and embattled workers’ state was compelled to defend itself arms in hand, or else surrender to the tender mercies of the White armies, which, in common with all counter-revolutionary armies in world history, used the most bestial and bloodthirsty methods to terrorise the workers and peasants. Had they triumphed, it would have meant an ocean of blood.

Capitalist hypocrisy

While right-wing hypocrites remain silent about the horrific war crimes perpetrated in the name of capitalism and imperialism, they are the most vocal critics of any and every action of the Bolsheviks during the Civil War.

To all the hypocritical attacks against the Bolsheviks for the so-called Red Terror there is a very simple answer. Even the most democratic capitalist government on earth will never tolerate the existence of armed groups which attempt to overthrow the existing order by violent means. Such groups are immediately outlawed, and the leaders put in jail, or executed. This is regarded as perfectly lawful and acceptable. Yet the same standards are not applied to the embattled Bolshevik government, fighting for survival and attacked by enemies on all sides. The hypocrisy is even more nauseating if we bear in mind the fact that precisely these ‘democratic’ Western governments organised the military offensives against the Bolsheviks at this time.

It was actually the intervention of these very Western governments that forced the Bolsheviks into using more violent methods to defend itself. In January 1920, with the approval of Lenin and Trotsky, the death penalty was abolished throughout the country. But within three months the situation changed again. Supported by Britain and France, the reactionary Polish regime of Pilsudski attacked Soviet Russia. The Revolution was in mortal danger, meaning that the death penalty had to be reintroduced. 

Only a hypocrite would deny the right of a people to defend itself against the threat of bloody counter-revolution by all the means at its disposal. Of course, if one considers that it is better for the masses simply to turn the other cheek and meekly accept oppression, then the methods of the Bolsheviks must stand condemned. Such a philosophy can only mean the permanent acceptance of each and every reactionary regime that ever existed. It would, in fact, rule out the process of social progress in general. Not morality or love of humanity, but only the cowardly defence of the status quo, that is the rule of the exploiters, is the real motive of those who slander the October Revolution for defending itself.

Was the October Revolution a coup?

The myth that the October Revolution was a ‘coup’ is often used to hide the support that Lenin and the Bolsheviks had won among the masses at the time. In reality, however, the Bolsheviks could never have taken and held power in 1917 without the primary involvement of the masses. 

The revolution took place over nine months, during which the Bolshevik Party, using the most democratic means, won over the decisive majority of the workers and poor peasants. There is no way that the Bolsheviks could have held onto power, without the support of the overwhelming majority of society. At every stage, the decisive role was played by the active intervention of the masses. This is what set its stamp on the whole process. The ruling class and its political and military representatives could only grind their teeth, but were powerless to prevent power from slipping from their hands. True, they were involved in constant conspiracies against the revolution, including the armed uprising of General Kornilov, which aimed at instituting a military dictatorship, but all of this foundered on the movement of the masses.

The fact that the masses supported the Bolsheviks was accepted by everyone at the time, including the staunchest enemies of the revolution. Naturally, they put this down to all kinds of malign influences, ‘demagogy’, the immaturity of the workers and peasants, their supposed ignorance, and all the rest of the arguments which are essentially directed against democracy itself. How it came about that the masses only became ignorant and immature when they began to support the Bolsheviks must be one of the greatest mysteries there ever was.

The role of the Soviets

Far from being a coup by a tiny minority, the Russian Revolution was carried out by the huge numbers of workers that were organised in the Soviets. These were the real organs of democracy in 1917. Many attempt to justify the claim that the Bolsheviks led a coup by pointing to the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, but this ignores the fact that real democratic power lay not with the outdated institutions of capitalist ‘democracy’, but with the Soviets.

The word Soviet means council, or alternatively advice or assembly. Soviets were initially created in the 1905 Revolution in Russia, and then recreated in 1917, as defensive organisations of the working class. Informal and flexible, their form depended on the needs and stage of development of the class struggle. Generally, workers and members of the local community would elect delegates from their own workplace or community to attend the local Soviet, which would debate matters pertaining to the revolution and then put decisions into practice. The experience of building Soviets facilitated the most enormous advancement of political consciousness amongst workers.

Soviets could recall their delegates, if unhappy with them, at any time. As Lenin said, “All bureaucratic formalities and limitations disappear from the elections, and the masses themselves determine the ordering and timing of the elections with free right of recall of those elected.”

Soviets were the real organs of power that the workers had themselves created, elected directly from the factories and truly reflecting their wishes and power. They could not involve the capitalists, who had never even tried to participate in the Soviets. For the Soviet system to be what it needed to be – the most democratic system ever created – it had to base itself exclusively on the living struggle of the masses against their exploiters.

In 1917, the first workers’ government formed out of this process was actually a coalition between the Bolsheviks and the Left Social Revolutionaries (SRs). At this time, all these parties – both left and right SRs, all the Mensheviks etc. – were participating in Soviet elections, being elected to the Congress of Soviets, and freely publishing their papers.

However, in the course of the struggle of the Civil War, beginning in mid-1918, it is true that many of these freedoms were restricted. These other parties took up arms against the regime, they conspired with imperialist governments in the Civil War that would lead to so many deaths and so much hardship. To treat them in the manner of a gentlemanly debating club would be impossible.

After having rejected the Bolshevik’s resolution that the Constituent Assembly accept the power of the Soviets as sovereign in its first ever session on 18 January 1918, the assembly, essentially a bourgeois parliament, simply ceased to exist when its guards declared they were too tired to keep it open. In other words, real, material power lay with the Soviets.

A ‘coup’ explains nothing

Ultimately, the notion that the Bolsheviks carried out a coup leaves us completely unable to explain the real events of 1917.

It is impossible to understand what happened in 1917 without seeing the fundamental role of the masses. Here, for the first time in history, the working class actually succeeded in taking power and at least beginning the socialist transformation of society. That is precisely why the enemies of socialism are compelled to lie about the October Revolution and slander it. They cannot forgive Lenin and the Bolsheviks for having succeeded in leading the first successful socialist revolution, for proving that such a thing is possible, and therefore pointing the way for future generations. Such a precedent is dangerous! It is therefore necessary to ‘prove’ that this was all a very bad business, and must not be repeated.

The claim that the October Revolution was only a coup is often justified by pointing to the relatively small numbers actually involved in the insurrection itself. This apparently profound argument does not resist the slightest scrutiny. In the first place, it confuses the armed insurrection with the revolution. In reality, the insurrection is only a part of the revolution – a very important part, it is true. As a matter of fact, the amount of fighting that took place in Petrograd was very small. One can say that it was bloodless. The reason for this was that nine-tenths of the tasks were already accomplished beforehand, by winning over the decisive majority of the workers and soldiers. It was still necessary to use armed force to overcome the resistance of the old order. No ruling class has ever surrendered power without a fight. But resistance was minimal. The government collapsed like a house of cards, because nobody was prepared to defend it.

Was the USSR responsible for 100 million deaths?

A common myth propagated to discredit Lenin and communism more generally is the claim that 100 million people have been killed by communist regimes. This incoherent and baseless figure has been proven false on many occasions, as detailed in this entry from “Top 10 lies about the Bolshevik Revolution”, published in 2017.

“This claim is based on the Black Book of Communism authored by Stephane Courtois in 1998. It has been widely debunked as biased, using shoddy methodology and hypocritical criteria. Even some of its main contributors critiqued the book saying that Courtois was obsessed with reaching the number of 100 million by whatever means necessary and that this figure cannot be sustained…

“Whose responsibility are the deaths during the Russian Civil War? Is the civil war the fault of the mass of workers and peasants, the majority of the population, who wanted an end to WWI, land to the peasants, self determination for oppressed nationalities, and socialism? Or is it the fault of the White generals, the landowners, the bosses, the monarchists, and the 21 foreign armies of intervention, that didn’t accept the wishes of the majority? It is akin to bandits attacking your home, resulting in deaths on both sides: whose fault is that? The reactionaries answer that the homeowners are at fault as nobody would have been hurt if they had just surrendered. One may as well blame Abraham Lincoln for all the deaths during the American Civil War that freed the slaves. Proportionately, per head of population, a similar number of people were killed.

“Even the attacks on the Stalinists are hypocritical. For example, the book lays responsibility for 1.5 million deaths in Afghanistan, practically all of the deaths during the Soviet-friendly regime. But it forgets that the CIA armed and funded the Mujahideen insurgency with rocket launchers and other advanced weaponry in a prolonged guerrilla war. It also forgets that this Mujahideen included such ‘freedom fighters’ as Osama Bin Laden, and renamed itself the Taliban in the 1990s. So who was responsible for these deaths?

“One event that is frequently associated with the 100 million dead is the Soviet famine of 1932-1933, the so-called Holodomor. The Black Book lists 4 million dead in Ukraine and 2 million elsewhere in the USSR. The right-wing nationalist Ukrainian regime categorizes this famine as a genocide, and it is often used for political purposes to bolster the nationalist cause.

“Marxists are the last to excuse the Stalinists for this famine, which was the result of Stalin’s criminal policy of forced collectivisation. Trotsky analysed this in his anti-Stalinist masterpiece, Revolution Betrayed. However, neither do we accept the anti-communist victimhood of the Ukrainian nationalists. The truth is that in the 1920s Stalin leaned on the kulak peasants enriched by the New Economic Policy to defeat Trotsky’s Left Opposition. The Left Opposition was calling for a policy of voluntary collectivisation of the land in order to educate the peasants on the advantages of socialism.

“But once Trotsky’s proletarian tendency was defeated the kulaks threatened a return to capitalism, endangering the privileges of the bureaucracy. Stalin did a 180-degree somersault and turned on the kulaks. Instead of voluntary collectivisation he introduced forced collectivisation, with the aim to “liquidate the kulaks as a class”. This insane policy led to rich peasants consuming the seed and livestock, rather than cultivating them, resulting in a famine. Ukraine faced a more acute impact as it was the breadbasket of the Tsarist empire. However the famine also had a significant impact outside Ukraine. While the facts do not support the nationalist claim of genocide, it was the Trotskyists who fought against this famine from the start.”

Hypocrisy and double-standards

While misattributing deaths to the bogeyman of ‘communism’ is bad enough, those who propagate this myth also consistently ignore the untold victims of capitalist brutality, as the article notes: 

“The hypocritical methodology of the Black Book would result in a figure numbering in the billions if it was applied consistently to capitalism. Noam Chomsky, no supporter of Stalinism or Maoism, did this analysis to compare India with China. Due to the lower inequality and better distribution of medical resources in the Chinese planned economy, the number of excess deaths in India alone had reached 100 million by 1979 (and counting!) What of the decimation of indigenous populations in North and South America? The capitalist slave trade in Africa? The impact of imperialism globally?

“Winston Churchill himself bears a key responsibility for the Bengal famine of 1943, in which millions died. During the famine, British controlled India was actually exporting food and Churchill was quoted as saying, “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.” This is not to mention the millions upon millions dying in wars for profit and imperialist strategic considerations. Over a million deaths in Iraq alone, plus the world wars and constant ‘minor’ wars.

“In March of this year [2017], UNICEF estimated that 600-million children face death, disease, and malnutrition by 2040 if current trends continue. In previous reports they have detailed how millions of children die every year by the same preventable causes while the top 8 billionaires own the same as the poorest half of humanity. By this measure capitalism, imperialism, and colonialism, have produced an entire library of “black books”. It is high time humanity turned the page on this social and economic system that is dripping with blood from every pore.”

Did communism fail in practice?

When the Soviet Union collapsed, the opponents of communism celebrated this as conclusive evidence that Marxism and economic planning had been disproven. In reality, however, the collapse of the USSR was not proof of the failure of communism, but rather of the monstrous bureaucratic caricature of communism that developed after Lenin’s death. 

As Trotsky masterfully showed, Stalinism has nothing in common with genuine communism, but rather lived parasitically on the achievements of the planned economy until there was nothing left of it.

In the 1920s Trotsky wrote a small book with the title: Towards socialism or capitalism? That was always the decisive question for the USSR. The official propaganda was that the Soviet Union was moving inexorably towards the achievement of socialism. But the truth was that the Soviet Union was moving in another direction altogether.

The movement towards socialism should signify a gradual reduction in inequality. But in the Soviet Union inequality continually increased. An abyss opened up between the masses and the millions of privileged officials and their wives and children with their smart clothes, big cars, comfortable apartments and dachas. The contradiction was still more glaring because it contrasted with the official propaganda about socialism and communism.

From the standpoint of the masses, economic success cannot be reduced to the amount of steel, cement or electricity produced. Living standards depend above all on the production of commodities that are of good quality, cheap and easily available: clothes, shoes, food, washing machines, televisions and the like. But in those fields the USSR lagged far behind the West. That would not have been so serious but for the fact that some people enjoyed access to these things while most did not.

The parasitic bureaucracy

The reason why Stalinism could last so long despite all the crying contradictions it created was precisely the fact that for decades the nationalised planned economy made extraordinary strides forward. But the suffocating rule of the bureaucracy resulted in corruption, mismanagement, bungling and waste on a colossal scale. It undermined the gains of the planned economy. To the degree that the USSR developed to a higher level, the negative effects of bureaucracy had even more damaging consequences.

The bureaucracy always acted as a brake on the development of the productive forces. But whereas the task of building up heavy industry was relatively simple, a modern sophisticated economy with its complex relations between heavy and light industry, science and technology cannot be run by bureaucratic fiat without causing the most serious disruption. The costs of maintaining high levels of military expenditure and the costs of maintaining its grip on Eastern Europe imposed further strains on the Soviet economy.

With all the colossal resources at its disposal, the powerful industrial base and the army of high-class technicians and scientists, the bureaucracy was unable to achieve the same results as the West. In the vital fields of productivity and living standards the Soviet Union lagged behind. The main reason was the colossal burden imposed on the Soviet economy by the bureaucracy – the millions of greedy and corrupt officials that were running the Soviet Union without any control on the part of the working class.

As a result, the Soviet Union was falling behind the West. As long as the productive forces in the USSR continued to develop, the pro-capitalist tendency was insignificant. But the impasse of Stalinism transformed the situation completely. By the mid-1960s, the system of bureaucratically controlled planned economy reached its limits. This was graphically expressed by a sharp fall in the rate of growth in the USSR, which declined continually throughout the 1970s, approaching zero under Brezhnev. Once the Soviet Union was not able to obtain better results than capitalism, its fate was sealed.

What failed in Russia and Eastern Europe was not communism or socialism, in any sense that this was understood by Marx or Lenin, but a bureaucratic and totalitarian caricature. Lenin explained that the movement towards socialism requires the democratic control of industry, society and the state by the proletariat. Genuine socialism is incompatible with the rule of a privileged bureaucratic elite, which will inevitably be accompanied by colossal corruption, nepotism, waste, mismanagement and chaos.

The nationalised planned economies in the USSR and Eastern Europe achieved astonishing results in the fields of industry, science, health and education. But, as Trotsky predicted as early as 1936, the bureaucratic regime ultimately undermined the nationalised planned economy and prepared the way for its collapse and the return of capitalism.

Was the revolution a failure that achieved nothing?

One of the most common arguments against the Russian Revolution is that it failed to improve anything for the majority of people. In reality, even despite the strangling bureaucracy that took control after Lenin’s death, the Soviet Union made incredible technological and social advances on the basis of the planned economy. 

The October revolution of 1917 brought about the greatest advance of the productive forces of any country in history. Before the revolution, tsarist Russia was an extremely backward, semi-feudal economy with a predominantly illiterate population.

Under frightful conditions of economic, social and cultural backwardness, the regime of workers’ democracy established by Lenin and Trotsky began the titanic task of dragging Russia out of backwardness on the basis of a nationalised planned economy. The results have no precedent in economic history. Within the space of two decades Russia had established a powerful industrial base, developed industry, science and technology and abolished illiteracy. It achieved remarkable advances in the fields of health, culture and education. This was at a time when the Western world was in the grip of mass unemployment and economic collapse in the Great Depression.

In a period of 50 years, the USSR increased its gross domestic product nine times over. Despite the terrible destruction of the Second World War, it increased its GDP five times over from 1945 to 1979. In 1950, the GDP of the USSR was only 33 per cent that of the USA. By 1979, it was already 58 per cent. By the late 1970s, the Soviet Union was a formidable industrial power, which in absolute terms had already overtaken the rest of the world in a whole series of key sectors. The USSR was the world’s second biggest industrial producer after the USA and was the biggest producer of oil, steel, cement, asbestos, tractors, and many machine tools.

Unemployment and inflation

All this was achieved virtually without unemployment or inflation. Unemployment like that in the West was unknown in the Soviet Union. In fact, it was legally a crime. There might be examples of cases arising from bungling or individuals who came into conflict with the authorities being deprived of their jobs. But such phenomena did not flow from the nature of a nationalised planned economy, and need not have existed. They had nothing in common with either the cyclical unemployment of capitalism or the organic cancer which now affects the whole of the Western world and which currently condemns millions of people in the OECD countries to a life of enforced idleness.

Moreover, for most of the post-war period, there was little or no inflation. This was particularly the case with the prices of basic items of consumption. Before perestroika (reconstruction), the last time meat and dairy prices had been increased was in 1962. Bread, sugar and most food prices had last been increased in 1955. Rents were extremely low, particularly when compared to the West, where most workers have to pay a third or more of their wages on housing costs.

The USSR had a balanced budget and even a small surplus every year. It is interesting to note that not a single Western government has succeeded in achieving this result, just as they have not succeeded in achieving full employment and zero inflation, things which also existed in the Soviet Union. The Western critics of the Soviet Union kept very quiet about this, because it demonstrated the possibilities of even a transitional economy, never mind socialism.

Women’s emancipation in the Soviet Union

Aside from this, on the basis of the planned economy, huge advances were made in the formal rights of oppressed groups.

The October Revolution was a milestone in the struggle for women’s emancipation. Prior to that, under Tsarism, women were regarded as mere appendages of the household. Tsarist laws explicitly permitted a man to use violence against his wife. In some rural areas women were forced to wear veils and were prevented from learning to read and write. Between 1917 and 1927 a whole series of laws were passed giving women formal equality with men.

Women were no longer obliged to live with their husbands or accompany them if a change of job meant a change of house. They were given equal rights to be head of the household and received equal pay. Attention was paid to the women’s childbearing role and special maternity laws were introduced banning long hours and night work and establishing paid leave at childbirth, family allowances and child-care centres. Abortion was legalised in 1920, divorce was simplified and civil registration of marriage was introduced. The concept of illegitimate children was also abolished. In the words of Lenin: “In the literal sense, we did not leave a single brick standing of the despicable laws which placed women in a state of inferiority compared with men.”

Material advances were made to facilitate the full involvement of women in all spheres of social, economic and political life – the provision of free school meals, milk for children, special food and cloth allowances for children in need, pregnancy consultation centres, maternity homes, créches and other facilities. True, the emergence of Stalinism ushered in a series of counter-reforms in the social sphere, which drastically affected the position of women. But with the death of Stalin, the post-war economic growth allowed a steady general improvement: retirement at 55 years, no discrimination in pay and terms of employment, and the right of pregnant women to shift to lighter work with fully paid maternity leave for 56 days before and 56 days after the birth of a child. New legislation in 1970 abolished night work and underground work for women. The number of women in higher education as a percentage of the total rose from 28 per cent in 1927, to 43 per cent in 1960, to 49 per cent in 1970. The only other countries in the world where women constituted over 40 per cent of the total in higher education were Finland, France, and the United States.

There were improvements in pre-school care for children: in 1960 there were 500,000 places, but by 1971 this had risen to over five million. The tremendous advances of the planned economy, with the consequent improvements in health care, were reflected in the doubling of the life expectancy for women from 30 to 74 years and the reduction in child mortality by 90 per cent. In 1975 women working in education had risen to 73 per cent. In 1959 one-third of women were in occupations where 70 per cent of the workforce were women, but by 1970 this figure had climbed to 55 per cent. By this time, 98 per cent of nurses were women, as were 75 per cent of teachers, 95 per cent of librarians and 75 per cent of doctors. In 1950 there were 600 female doctors of science, but by 1984 it had climbed to 5,600.

Without the revolution could Russia have been a liberal democracy?

The myth that the Russian Revolution overthrew what could have been a successful, liberal, democratic government flies in the face of facts. Not only were the bodies of workers’ democracy established in Russia far more democratic than anything that capitalist democracy could ever have achieved, the trajectory of the Provisional Government in 1917 was not towards greater freedom for the masses, but towards an entrenched autocracy.

The real state of democracy in Russia before the October Revolution is described in “Top 10 lies about the Bolshevik Revolution”:

“The first Provisional Government put the Liberal Kadets into power. If people had wanted liberalism this government would have remained stable. But the liberals could not give the people what they wanted, namely: an end to the war, land to the peasants, freedom for the oppressed nationalities, and food for the cities. All this was summed up in the Bolshevik slogan of “Peace, Land, and Bread”.

“Due to its inability to solve the crisis in society this government fell and was replaced with a coalition government between reformist socialists and liberals. In turn, the bourgeois liberals were discredited and were replaced by a government almost entirely made up of reformist socialists from the Soviets, with Kerensky at its head. The reformists did everything in their power not to break with the capitalist order of things, but consequently they could not provide the people with peace, land, or bread.”

The inability of the Provisional Government to fulfil the desperate needs of the masses led to a surge of support for the Soviets and the Bolshevik party. The workers and peasants of Russia had seen first hand how little capitalist democracy was able to offer them and turned against it, this laid the basis for the October Revolution.

The threat of fascism

In reality, without the success of the October Revolution, the counter-revolutionary forces in Russia were far more eager to regroup around a brutal dictator to crush the masses, than allow a peaceful transition to capitalist democracy:

“The ruling class, the landlords and capitalists, could no longer rely on parliamentary maneuvers to maintain their power. All their parties had been rejected by the people. They instead moved to the methods of a fascist coup led by General Kornilov in August of 1917. Kornilov was not just going to massacre the Soviet workers, he would also have broken up the Provisional Government. Kerensky, rightfully fearing for his own head, released Bolshevik prisoners who in turn defeated Kornilov’s coup by mobilising the Petrograd workers and conducting agitation amongst the troops.

“From that point onwards the ‘liberal, reformist’ Provisional Government was suspended in mid-air. The mass of workers and peasants looked to the Soviets to solve their problems. The bosses, landowners, and monarchists looked to Kornilovite reaction to teach the people a bloody lesson for being so impudent. The ‘middle-road’ had been tried and rejected by all sides. The only options were socialism or fascism.”

Was the Provisional Government democratic?

Despite presenting itself as the ‘democratic’ alternative to ‘authoritarian’ communism, the Provisional Government in Russia in 1917 had absolutely no democratic mandate or popular support. As the article states:

“In the dying days of the monarchy these unrepresentative individuals, mostly wealthy aristocrats, businessmen, and professors, declared themselves ‘The Provisional Government’ despite having no democratic mandate – or constitutional basis – whatsoever. The masses who actually participated in the revolution were sceptical, but unfortunately the Soviets had elected reformist leaders, who gave their support to the bourgeois Liberals. The only democratic mandate of the Provisional Government was that leant to it by the reformist Menshevik and Social Revolutionary Party leaders of the Soviets. The masses didn’t support the Provisional Government, but at the start of 1917 they had faith in the Soviet leaders. Thus began the period of dual power, with the Provisional Government sharing power with the soviet executive. This was the ‘legal’ set up installed by the February revolution.”

By November 1917, the Bolsheviks won a huge majority in the Soviets on the basis of a genuinely democratic mandate. This gave them the authority to carry out their programme of giving “all power to the Soviets” and ridding Russia of the unpopular, undemocratic Provisional Government, finally putting power in the hands of the masses.

Did Lenin ban religion?

Marxism categorically rejects any and all spiritual or theological explanations of the world. This, however, does not mean that communists want to forbid people from practising their religion. On the contrary, the Bolsheviks established a truly secular state after the Russian Revolution, in which religion took no part in politics or education, but could be freely practised without repercussions. 

Lenin neither expected nor demanded the immediate disappearance of religion after the Revolution. Rather, as the material needs of the people were satisfied more and more completely by socialism, their spiritual dependence on religion would gradually wane. This perspective, in turn, was proven correct following the Russian Revolution.

The truth about Lenin and the Bolsheviks’ approach to religion is laid out in “Religion in the Soviet Union”, an article published by British Trotskyists in 1945:

“The Soviet State decreed the separation of the Church from the State and freed the educational system from all Church influence. All citizens were given the right to carry on both religious and anti-religious propaganda. The property of the Church was confiscated but the church buildings were returned for the use of the clergy. The Church retained freedom of worship, association, meeting and propaganda…

“The Church continued to function in the Soviet Union, but the masses had turned from it, especially in the towns. Its support amongst the youth was very small, and its main basis lay amongst the more backward masses, especially the older generation of peasants. The clergy lived upon donations from their supporters and were entirely cut off from Soviet life. Priests had no right to vote in Soviet elections or to be elected to Soviet organisations. For the class-conscious Soviet worker the Church was a relic of the past which was destined gradually to wither away under the influence of the rising material and cultural standards of the masses.”

Lenin on anti-semitism

A clear example of Lenin’s position on religion is his defence of the Jewish people in Russia against anti-semitic attacks. In a speech in 1919, Lenin denounced the brutal anti-semitism of the former Tsarist regime, which had promoted countless violent pogroms against Jewish communities, and instead called for trust and unity between different religions and nationalities:

“Anti-Semitism means spreading enmity towards the Jews. When the accursed tsarist monarchy was living its last days it tried to incite ignorant workers and peasants against the Jews. The tsarist police, in alliance with the landowners and the capitalists, organised pogroms against the Jews. The landowners and capitalists tried to divert the hatred of the workers and peasants who were tortured by want against the Jews. In other countries, too, we often see the capitalists fomenting hatred against the Jews in order to blind the workers, to divert their attention from the real enemy of the working people, capital. Hatred towards the Jews persists only in those countries where slavery to the landowners and capitalists has created abysmal ignorance among the workers and peasants. Only the most ignorant and downtrodden people can believe the lies and slander that are spread about the Jews. This is a survival of ancient feudal times, when the priests burned heretics at the stake, when the peasants lived in slavery, and when the people were crushed and inarticulate. This ancient, feudal ignorance is passing away; the eyes of the people are being opened.

“It is not the Jews who are the enemies of the working people. The enemies of the workers are the capitalists of all countries. Among the Jews there are working people, and they form the majority. They are our brothers, who, like us, are oppressed by capital; they are our comrades in the struggle for socialism…

“Shame on accursed tsarism which tortured and persecuted the Jews. Shame on those who foment hatred towards the Jews, who foment hatred towards other nations.

“Long live the fraternal trust and fighting alliance of the workers of all nations in the struggle to overthrow capital.”

Were Lenin and Trotsky opponents?

A common myth, originally promoted by Stalinists after Lenin’s death, claims that Lenin and Trotsky were opponents, who were engaged in a bitter personal and political feud until Lenin’s death. In reality, however, on all the decisive questions of their lives, Lenin and Trotsky were united in their defence of a genuine Marxist position, with Lenin stating in November 1917 that there was “no better Bolshevik” than Trotsky.

Out of all the leaders of the communists in 1917, only one completely coincided with the position defended by Lenin. That man was Leon Trotsky. When Trotsky first heard of the February Revolution, he was still in exile in the United States. Immediately he wrote a series of articles in the paper Novy Mir (New World), in March 1917. What is most striking is the fact that, although there was no communication between Trotsky and Lenin, who was thousands of miles away in Switzerland, the content of these articles is identical to that of Lenin’s Letters From Afar, written at the same time. These letters of Lenin proved to be so shocking to the Bolshevik leaders in Petrograd that Kamenev and Stalin had them suppressed or published in a mutilated form. At a time when the ‘Old Bolsheviks’, against Lenin’s explicit advice, were moving closer to the Mensheviks, Lenin’s ideas seemed to them to be pure ‘Trotskyism’, and they were not wrong. The logic of events had pushed Lenin and Trotsky together. Independently, and starting from different directions, they came to the same conclusion: the bourgeoisie cannot solve the problems of Russia. The workers must take power.

Lenin’s last struggle

The unfortunate truth for those who propagate this baseless myth is that at the end of his life, Lenin formed an alliance with Trotsky in the Bolshevik Party, to counteract the growing influence of the bureaucracy under the figurehead of Stalin. 

What determined Lenin’s bitter struggle against Stalin was not his personal defects, but the role he played in introducing the methods and ideology of alien social classes and strata into the very Party leadership which should have been a bulwark against those things.

In the last months of his life, weakened by illness, Lenin turned more and more frequently to Trotsky, for support in his struggle against the bureaucracy and its creature, Stalin. On the question of the monopoly of foreign trade, on the question of Georgia, and finally, in the struggle to oust Stalin from the leadership, Lenin formed a bloc with Trotsky, the only man in the leadership he could trust.

Throughout this entire last period of his life, in numerous articles, speeches, and above all letters, Lenin repeatedly expressed his solidarity with Trotsky. On all the important issues we have mentioned, it was Trotsky whom he singled out to defend his point of view in the leading bodies of the party.

Needless to say, all the evidence for the existence of this bloc between Lenin and Trotsky against the Stalin clique was kept under lock and key, for many years. But truth will out.


Bolshevism: The Road to Revolution — Alan Woods

Lenin and Trotsky: What They Really Stood For — Alan Woods & Ted Grant

Was Lenin a German agent?

The absurd suggestion that Lenin was a paid agent of the German government has its origins in the slanders of the opponents of the Russian Revolution in 1917. After the fall of the Soviet Union, this myth was dredged up once again to make it appear as if it was secret money rather than the support of the masses that brought the Bolsheviks to power.

This monstrous lie was invented by the tsarist secret service to discredit the Bolsheviks, and later repeated and amplified by reactionaries to persecute the Bolsheviks in 1917. In the recent period, it has been revived by unscrupulous ‘historians’ like Dmitri Volkogonov, who make no attempt to conceal their hatred of Lenin, Trotsky, and revolutionaries in general.

In his book on Lenin, Volkogonov dredges up all the old lies about Lenin as a ‘German agent’ that were answered long ago. In addition to the old detractors, he quotes some new ones, who, on closer inspection, appear to be mere replicators of the old stuff. A “Russian historian”, a certain S.P. Melgunov, is the first authority quoted by Volkogonov. He assures the reader that one must seek “the key to the German gold in the pocket of Parvus (Helphand), who was simultaneously in touch with the socialist world and the German general staff”, and that “this would explain the extraordinarily rapid success of Lenin’s propaganda.” When was this startlingly new and original material written? In 1940, when it appeared in a book called The Bolsheviks’ German Golden Key, published in Paris and part of a rather voluminous literature published by Russian exiles, all of them fanatical opponents of Bolshevism, motivated by spite, hatred, and the spirit of revenge. From such sources, one can hardly expect a scientific appraisal of this subject or any other.

But at last Volkogonov adds: “Now that I have examined a great number of hitherto unobtainable documents…” At last we catch a glimpse of these new and exciting sources! And what do they show? Believe it or not, they show that the famous “secret of the revolution”, which has so long been kept hidden… “is still far from being cleared up”. Either the “secrets” were passed on by word of mouth among a small circle of Bolshevik leaders, or the evidence has been destroyed, and “Lenin knew well how to guard secrets”.

This ludicrous myth has been magnified a thousandfold and broadcast to the ends of the earth. Volkogonov’s friends in the mass media did not waste any time in assuring everyone that his book contained conclusive proof, based on entirely new sources, that Lenin was no more than an agent of the German state. This, however, could not be further from reality.


Bolshevism: The Road to Revolution — Alan Woods

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