Staunton, January 27 – Vladimir Putin’s attack on Lenin’s gift to the non-Russian union republics has attracted a great deal of attention, Lev Shlosberg says; but that is hardly the Soviet founder’s most dangerous legacy, the belief that everything can be achieved by force alone and that Russia can always start over from scratch rather than building on what it has.
And one of the reasons that the current Kremlin leader is not attacking those notions is that he is an embodiment of them, having succumbed to “the temptation” that force alone is sufficient to solve problems and that one can build a new future by constantly breaking with the past.
In the current issue of Pskov’s “Gubernia,” the opposition figure argues that Russians “must reread Vladimir Lenin so that the country will cease to follow in his footsteps” ground hog day fashion again and again in this regard and keep being thrown back rather than able to move forward (gubernia.pskovregion.org/number_775/01.php).
“In Russian history,” Shlosberg writes, “there exists the magic of repeating dates. A century after 1917, the approach of 2017 at a time of economic and social crisis is giving rise to new temptations, the chief of which is to solve the problem of power via force.”
1917 showed that “force brought success,” but at a price over the next 70 years of “tens of millions of lives including those who welcomed this success” as a result of a Civil War, collectivization, and repression.” And that price more than anything else brought the Soviet Union to its end.
“But the temptation of successful force has remained,” Shlosberg says, a tradition that Vladimir Lenin laid the beginnings of in Russia.
“Russia’s tragedy of the beginning of the 20th century was the tragedy of the loss of a legal state.” With the forced dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, “all legal organs of state power were destroyed.” Indeed, “one must not recognize as legal organs of power those which were established after the Bolshevik coup.”
“’To destroy to the foundations and then build’ is dangerous: the house will stand on a poor foundation,” but that is exactly what Russians have done and what some want to do again in the future, Shlosberg argues.
This tragedy, of course, “did not arise in an empty place.” The tsarist regime had refused to carry out real reforms, he says; and the reforms which were undertaken “turned out to be incomplete and late. The tsar didn’t want to work with the Duma. World War I put too many strains on the system, and “public distrust in the institutions of the state became critically high.”
“The state lay in ruins and needed renewal and almost universal social injustice needed to be corrected … The passion for justice and anger against injustice became the main drivers of the Russian revolution.” The situation might have been saved had Russia adopted a genuine constitution and thus preserved “the European path of development.”
But instead and as the result of a destructive revolution, Russia went in another direction, seeking to “correct injustice through new injustice and revenge and through force.” Lenin and the Bolsheviks decided to build a state on the basis of “popular hatred” and they succeed all too well, with “the bestial repressions” begun by Lenin “personally.”
Moreover, “according to the logic of the domestic destruction of any disagreement and any resistance, enemies constantly appeared among the victors and became victims, and then the place of the victims was occupied by the murderers of the first. Thus things continued more than 70 years.”
In 1991, this entire edifice collapsed having lost a historical competition, and once again the issue of legal succession of the new state arose. Russian leaders “could have chosen not only the USSR. They could have decided to become the legal successors of the Russian Empire as well, to establish the succession of state power and to carry out restitution and restore the property rights of millions of people … to end the crime of 1917.”
But “this didn’t happen,” Shlosberg says. “In essence, those in power in Russia in 1991 turned out to be new Bolsheviks. It was important to them to preserve the right to the state’s use of force as a means of resolving government and social problems, the right to inflict injustice on a state-wide basis.” They too “liked success founded on force.”
As a result, these Russian leaders became “the legal successors only of the USSR, a state which was from the outset based on universal force,” and as a result, there were among other things, the shelling of the parliament tin 1993, the first war in Chechnya beginning in 1994, the second Chechen war starting in 1999, and the Ukrainian war which began in 2014
In short, “the virus of Lenin lives and triumphs” almost a century after he died. “And in this sense, Lenin is alive.” Many have forgotten that “the Bolshevik coup did not solve any of the problems of the Russian state in 1917. It simply destroyed the state itself, and millions of people liked this.”
The lesson that in 1917 “a crime took place which sent the entire country into a dead end, one from which no way out has yet been found.” Until Russians recognize that and realize that they must build on what exists rather than seek to destroy everything by force every time they dislike something, Lenin will continue to live in them, whatever their leaders say.