Systems Matter Part 3: From Theory into History

In this intriguing saga of cultural economics and social systems one more player needs to be introduced. Vladimir Lenin was the founder of the Russian Communist Party, the Leader of the Bolshevik Revolution, and architect of the first ever Soviet state. Had it not been for Vladimir Lenin, it is very probable that the theoretical writings of Marx and Engles would have remained as interesting conjecture and late night reading material. But it must also be said that without the systemized writings of Marx and Engles, Lenin would not have had the articulated basis for his brash and flawed experiment of organized communism.

The name Lenin was an alias. He was born Vladimir Llyich Ulyanov in 1870, three years after Marx had written Das Kapital. The oppression of the Russian culture had radicalized the entire Ulyanov family, and all eventually became involved in acts of revolution. Vladimir’s oldest brother Alexander was hanged for participation in a terrorist bomb attack in an attempt to assassinate the Czar, Alexander III. His brother’s execution is considered the tipping point for Vladimir’s overwhelming determination to succeed in his lifelong revolutionary exploits.

A picture entitled We Will Follow a Different Path portrays Lenin and his mother grieving over Alexander’s hanging, and for Vladimir that meant absolutely embracing the Marxist approach for total revolution and communism. It was Lenin who translated the writings of Marx and Engles into the Russian language. In 1889 Lenin declared himself a Marxist communist and said, “Give us an organization of revolutionaries and we will overthrow Russia.”(1)

Marx and Engles, as well as Lenin, saw the wealth and opulence of the Czars and the bourgeoisie class in Russia and Europe as an “object” or a thing. They truly believed that if the proletariat would finally become poor enough and hungry enough they would rise up en masse against the wealthy, plunder the riches, grab the golden egg of the Czars, and once and for all eliminate the upper class. Then they would be free to take their newly acquired goods, redistribute them amongst the proletariat, and they would all live happily ever after.

In order to see the plan successfully accomplished, it was absolutely imperative that there be a total revolution, a dismantling of all systems, a declaration of new ownership of all wealth, and the announcement of a fair and equitable plan for redistribution.

In 1905, the Czar Emperor Nicholas II became embroiled in a bitter war with Japan. The Russian rag-tag army lost nearly every battle and suffered debilitating casualties. The Russian people were sick of the war and sick of the costs of the conflict that left the economy in shambles. The famine and starvation that followed drove the people to the streets in protest of the Czar’s failures and a representation formally gathered to submit petitions of protest to the Emperor. The Emperor’s soldiers summarily shot and killed the bearers of the petitions. The stage was set for a rebellion and revolution.

But the Emperor moved quickly and agreed to concessions including the creation of a people’s elected legislation assembly called the Duma. Was it possible that could have been the turning point in history as much as King John of England agreeing to the signing of the Magna Carta at Runnymede?

The Magna Carta had been in place in England and had proven to be the cornerstone of liberty, and a viable defense against arbitrary and unjust treatment of the citizens, and the framework of liberty and enterprise. Was Czar Nicholas II not moving in the same direction? Would that model not have become Russia’s correction burn and opened the door to the free world and prosperity?

We will never know. Lenin returned to Russia from self-imposed exile. He was driven by the fear that an absolutely good revolution could go to waste. He was consumed by the memory of his hanging brother and his vow of total revolution and the crushing of all existing systems by the Marxist creed.

There might never be another prime opportunity for the violent overthrow of the Russian government to take place and the Marxist/Leninist experiment of communism instituted. What a shame it would be if the Menshevik Party could settle the dispute and receive from the Czar not only a sign of willingness to a movement toward reconciliation and representative government, but openness to ideas of democracy and free market.

There was too much historic potential to lose. Marx had propounded that the total overthrow of the Czar and the confiscation and control of everything would set communism in a position to also seize full control of the world by surrounding and isolating the capitalist nations of the west and also bring them to their knees. Resistance to Lenin was from the Menshevik Party. They feared that Lenin’s plans would lead to a one man dictatorship. In response, Lenin organized a separate entity with uncompromising mandates of total revolution and control. He now appealed not only to the peasants and the workers, but especially reached out to Russia’s discouraged and disenfranchised soldiers of the Czar.

Lenin was determined to win at any cost. He implemented tactics of terror and genocide to secure his power base. He initiated Red Terror to violently wipe out all opposition within the civilian population. The unchecked war between the revolutionary Red Army and the loyalist White Army raged for another three years.

The Czar and his family were deposed in 1917. They were whisked away and assassinated without hearing or trial. Lenin then proclaimed that Russia was a Soviet government ruled directly by soldiers, peasants, and workers. The people rejoiced. Lenin had won the revolution and had established the first ever Soviet Communist State.

Vladimir Lenin suffered two strokes in 1922, thought to be the result of the doctors not being able to remove bullets that were lodged in his body following a failed assassination attempt. He died in 1924 following another stroke at the age of 53. Joseph Stalin assumed the leadership of the communist Soviet State. He proved to be even more despotic and violent in his leadership than was Lenin. But he cleverly was able to solidify the population of Russia by encouraging a cult-like atmosphere that glorified the theories and teachings of Lenin that had been based on the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrick Engles.

Next Week: Systems Matter Part 4: Marx, Communism, and Cultural Economics

(Research ideas from Dr. Jackson's new writing project on Cultural Economics)

© Dr. James W. Jackson  

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