Saturday, July 08, 2006

On Lenin

I suppose a somewhat arcane subject these days. Luckily so. Lenin was inhuman, bloodthirsty psychopath who almost singlehandedly created one of the worst terror systems known to humankind (which is much said). If there was ever someone who was even less entitled than Nicholas II to rule over a great country it was surely him. This said, it beggars belief how efficiently, how fanatically, how brilliantly he seized power being all time the ever underestimated leader of a relatively insignificant minority group that was always outnumbered by its many enemies. He certainly wasn't a man for all seasons: most of his career he was a failure, utterly powerless to affect the society and political process in any meaningful way. But then his season arrived, a most bloody season, and suddenly he was uniquely suited to ride the awful wild wave of hatred and destruction. Where others hesitated and prevaricated, he acted. Any effective combination of moderate socialists and liberals would have finished him off easily, but in that fearful chaos there was no efficiency in their camp, no ruthlessness, no real will to act. That surely is a lesson to any democracy under threat.

Nowadays Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra are remembered with great nostalgia and pity. I have to confess that I feel very little either. They presided over an awful, wasteful system with unimaginitive, criminal rigidity. The hatred and destruction that brought them down was not born in a vacuum - any system that lets such power to such hands is indeed criminal. With the Romanovs on the other side and the irrational, fanatic fringe opposition on the other, the rational centre was marginalized and outplayed in a throughly familiar way. The incompetency and stupidity of Nicholas and his regime is almost uncomprehensible: his every act looks as if designed to invite the monstrous bloody storm that finally did rise in 1917. When he finally did give up the power, the moderates had no experience, no cohesion and no courage to ride the storm. Lenin did, and so tens of millions died. Among them a family in Yekaterinburg, its adult members much less innocent of the bloodshed than most its victims.