Monday, 31 July 2017

Lenin the Dictator by Victor Sebestyen

I suspect anyone wanting to read this will be familiar with some of this history before they begin. Sebestyen's version starts with the Tsar’s regime on its last legs. Any number of intellectuals had ideas about what should come next, but a lot of these people belonged to the upper class. They were prepared to talk about it but not much else. On the other side government officials were blown up or shot with alarming regularity by various individuals with allegiance to some political party. Just like Lenin who was shot later on when he came to power.

Lenin the Dictator is a very readable history of the man. Subtitled 'an intimate portrait', the book is a more personal view, describing Lenin's relationships and love of nature. It's title is misleading as most of the book is about events before Lenin came to power although he was certainly a dictator in his party well before then. Anyone who didn’t believe or agree in what he was saying was bypassed or later removed.

Lenin saw opportunities which other people couldn’t see. He was ruthless, his single-mindedness in his drive to power coupled with ruthless supporters like Stalin, saw him succeed while others were cast aside.

He was also pragmatic and willing to adapt. When the revolution began without him he arranged to get passage though Germany back to Russia. The Germans hoping that if he got into power the Russians would pull out of the war. This put him off side with older party members who believed that a revolution should happen in a certain way.

Unfortunately once the Bolsheviks came to power large parts of the government did became corrupt. Bureaucracy grew out of control, but he did little to contain it. He was more worried about holding onto power.

Lenin’s health was never great and the lack of what we now call succession planning was later to hit Russia very hard. After he had a series of strokes and Stalin isolated him, it became too late for any of his ideas on the future direction of the Soviet state.

Even in death Lenin's image was still being manipulated and his body embalmed and placed on show, contrary to his wife’s wishes. By then it was already too late, Stalin was in control.

Posted by The Library Cat

Catalogue link: Lenin the Dictator

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