American Elephants

A Little History: Lenin’s Rules For Radicals by The Elephant's Child


Vladimir Ilyich Lenin came to power promising land to Russia’s peasants; bread for Russia’s starving cities; and peace for Russia’s World War I weary soldiers. He was able to dispense with  those promises by advancing civil war from 1918 to 1921. He was able to justify his acts because of the crisis.

In place of rights and liberty, Lenin gave Russians propaganda, with bullying messages and the barrel of a gun to undermine Russia’s weak democracy and transform society fundamentally.

The Russian Revolution was laced with brutal propaganda intended, not to win people over with ideas, but to bludgeon them with repression, coercion and making examples. “The type of propaganda that the Bolsheviks carried out is absolutely central to our understanding of the regime they created,” wrote Peter Kenez in The Birth of the Propaganda State: Soviet Methods of Mass Mobilization, 1917-1929.

The propaganda fell into six categories. You could call it Lenin’s Rules for Radicals.

  1. The Ends Justify the Means
    Lenin guaranteed a free press, but that lasted just two days, when he ordered opposition newspapers shut down. He promised to broaden land ownership, but promptly ended private property, destroying deeds before anyone could object. And the War weary soldiers were immediately impressed into the new Red Army, with families held hostage.
  2. First with the Most
    Lenin swiftly changed the meaning of words, disarming opponents. He won a membership issue in the Party Congress by only one vote, but promptly called his faction “Bolsheviks” or majoritarians, and his opponents “Menshiviks” or the minority.
    He dubbed the Bolsheviks “Reds” to signal an affinity with the French Revolution and his opponents “Whites” to associate them with the French Bourbon dynasty.
  3. Never Let a Crisis Go To Waste
    I think I heard that one before. Instead of persuading with words, Lenin simply closed other papers, leaving only the Bolshevik publications. This intensified the impact of the Bolshevik message.
  4. Demonization
    In denouncing opponents, Lenin was obsessive, virulent and personal, calling them “bloodsuckers,” “insects,” “spiders” “leeches” and “vampires. Then came “hoarders,”
    “wreckers,””saboteurs” and worst of all “Kulaks.”— the prosperous peasants he hated.
  5. Propaganda of Example
    Russians were mostly illiterate, and propaganda as a reign of terror was used to keep them in line. Public hangings and shootings served better than written material to force Russians into submission. “These swine have to be dealt with so that everyone will remember it for years.” Lenin wrote.
    Execution of the innocent was also used to impress the masses.Churches were targeted for destruction, sacred objects looted, priests shot.
  6. Blame Your Predecessor
    Socialism has the outstanding record of failing everywhere it has been tried. Lenin’s civil war cost 13 million lives, and his economic policies triggered the famine of 1921-1922. Everything was blamed on his predecessor — the Czar for all economic havoc.
    Eventually he had to backtrack on communism to hang on to power, but error was never admitted, and new horrors were yet to come.

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