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The Autumn of the Patriarch

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In 1920, three years after the Bolsheviks seized power, Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russell and H. G. Wells all made trips to Moscow (separately). Maxim Gorky, a personal friend of Lenin arranged a meeting between them and Lenin. Each author was shown only the selective segments of the Soviet life, and each wrote about his experiences thoroughly. (In above photo, Lenin meets with Wells on 6 October 1920 in his Kremlin office).

By 1920, 50-year old Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov Lenin was a tired old man. Years of hardship home and abroad, mental strains from chaotic revolution, government and civil war and wounds from the attempted assassinations reduced him. In May and December 1922, he suffered two strokes, which paralyzed him. The next March, he suffered the third stroke that rendered him mute and wheelchair-ridden. He retired to his country estate at Gorki, where his wife read him Jack London’s books (he was Lenin’s favorite author). “Love of Life” was left unfinished when Lenin died in January 1924.

“Come back and see what we have done in ten years,” said Lenin to Wells. But in his own megalomaniacal way, Lenin proved to be his own undoing. After his first stroke, Lenin dictated a document so harshly critical of all of his potential successors that it was in nobody’s interest to publicize it. Soon Stalin would take advantage of Lenin’s inability to speak or move; he would pay frequent visits to Lenin who was almost a vegetable, to portray a false image of him as close to Lenin.

Wells predicted that Lenin’s Bolshevism might be replaced by a new ideology and a dictatorship worse than Lenin’s that could spread outside of the Soviet Russia. In a sense he was prophetic. Yet, history would hardly be different if Lenin had lived longer. It was Lenin who created the first camps and purges; Lenin who set off artificial famine as a political weapon; Lenin who disbanded the last vestiges of democratic government, the Constituent Assembly, and devised the Communist Party as the apex of a totalitarian structure; Lenin who first waged war on the intelligentsia and on religious believers. His self-proclaimed “man of letters” paved the way not merely for his successors but for Mao, for Hitler, for Pol Pot.

Lenin’s illness was largely suppressed from the Russian people. Most of the pictures published in his final days were official-looking photos taken years before. The photo below, of Lenin with his sister and doctor, taken by his gardener was his last. It was published only after the Soviet Union collapsed in Dmitri Volkogonov’s Lenin: A New Biography.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

July 26, 2010 at 10:06 pm

Posted in Politics

Tagged with ,

9 Responses

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  1. Yes, famous photos, both of them.
    Two small observations: country estate in Gorki most certainly was not “his” (Lenin’s) – in a sense it is understood in normal, private-property-right established society.
    Also, I wouldn’t call Well’s reminiscence of Lenin “prophetic”. He called Lenin “Kremlin’s dreamer” and his overall tone was more of a skeptic who found Lenin’s theories impractical than principled ideological opponent.
    It is interesting to read an account of Well’s visit by Nina Berberova, who at the time frquented Gorky’s residence with her fiancee poet Khodasevich. She, for instance, writes about Wells meeting Gorky’s secretary and lover [at the time], Maria Budberg-Zakrevsky, who resided with Gorky – and who in later years became Well’s companion.

    ETat

    July 26, 2010 at 11:00 pm

  2. as for the 20th century…

    Lord Kitchener applied Scorched Earth policy during the later part of the Second Boer War (1899–1902) when the Boers, defeated on the battlefield, went to guerrilla warfare in order to rid their republics of the British. So the British ordered destruction of the farms and the homes of civilians in order to prevent the still-fighting Boers from obtaining food and supplies. This destruction left women and children without means to survive since crops and livestock were also destroyed.[8] The British conceived concentration camps as a humanitarian measure, to care for displaced persons until the war was ended. Negligence, lack of planning and supplies and overcrowding led to much loss of life.
    A decade after the war P.L.A. Goldman officially determined that an astonishing number of 27,927 Boers died in the concentration camps: 26,251 women and children (of whom more than 22,000 were under the age of 16), and 1,676 men over the age of 16, of whom 1,421 were aged persons.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Boer_War

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Cecil,_3rd_Marquess_of_Salisbury

    raspop

    July 27, 2010 at 2:22 am

  3. […] The Autumn of the Patriarch (via Iconic Photos) By jensdarup In 1920, three years after the Bolsheviks seized power, Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russell and H. G. Wells all made trips to Moscow (separately). Maxim Gorky, a personal friend of Lenin arranged a meeting between them and Lenin. Each author was shown only the selective segments of the Soviet life, and each wrote about his experiences thoroughly. (In above photo, Lenin meets with Wells on 6 October 1920 in his Kremlin office). By 1920, 50-year old Vla … Read More […]

  4. Contra factual history is always fun, but not real insightful I think. What if Lenin hadn’t been the victim of a nearly successful assissination attempt? Although, I’ve always liked Thurber’s take on the whole thing: “What If Grant Had Been Drinking at Appomatix.”

    lawguy

    July 27, 2010 at 5:47 pm

  5. Wow, Lenin went from 50 to 80 in 4 years. He looks positively looney in that wheelchair.

    David H

    July 29, 2010 at 7:36 am

  6. […] The Autumn of the Patriarch Posted on July 27, 2010 by jensdarup In 1920, three years after the Bolsheviks seized power, Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russell and H. G. Wells all made trips to Moscow (separately). Maxim Gorky, a personal friend of Lenin arranged a meeting between them and Lenin. Each author was shown only the selective segments of the Soviet life, and each wrote about his experiences thoroughly. (In above photo, Lenin meets with Wells on 6 October 1920 in his Kremlin office). By 1920, 50-year old Vla … Read More […]

  7. […] The Autumn of the Patriarch Posted on 20100727 by jensdarup In 1920, three years after the Bolsheviks seized power, Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russell and H. G. Wells all made trips to Moscow (separately). Maxim Gorky, a personal friend of Lenin arranged a meeting between them and Lenin. Each author was shown only the selective segments of the Soviet life, and each wrote about his experiences thoroughly. (In above photo, Lenin meets with Wells on 6 October 1920 in his Kremlin office). By 1920, 50-year old Vla … Read More […]

  8. The first “concentration camps” [Konzentrazion Lager] were actually Imperial German in Africa.

    Robert

    August 31, 2010 at 8:10 pm

  9. […] Lenin meets with Wells on 6 October 1920 in his Kremlin office). By 1920, 50-year old Vla … Read More via Iconic […]


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