There was a bit of comment on this article by Gary Saul Morson when it was released upon publication but I waited until my copy of The New Criterion arrived in the post before I read it. This article is a sensation that will make many things clear but also spook you about the kinds of people we are dealing with. It has the simple title, Leninthink which gives you no sense of what it’s about. It’s about what modern socialists really think and how they really operate. Their beliefs, whatever they are, represent an absolute moral standard. No argument, no discussion, no compromise. Mixed in with arbitrary random terror. This is some of it, but you need to read it all to get the sense of the mentality of the socialist absolute mind.
Lenin constantly recommended that people be shot “without pity” or “exterminated mercilessly” (Leszek Kołakowski wondered wryly what it would mean to exterminate people mercifully). “Exterminate” is a term used for vermin, and, long before the Nazis described Jews as Ungeziefer (vermin), Lenin routinely called for “the cleansing of Russia’s soil of all harmful insects, of scoundrels, fleas, bedbugs—the rich, and so on.”
Lenin worked by a principle of anti-empathy, and this approach was to define Soviet ethics. I know of no other society, except those modeled on the one Lenin created, where schoolchildren were taught that mercy, kindness, and pity are vices. After all, these feelings might lead one to hesitate shooting a class enemy or denouncing one’s parents. The word “conscience” went out of use, replaced by “consciousness” (in the sense of Marxist-Leninist ideological consciousness). During Stalin’s great purges a culture of denunciation reigned, but it was Lenin who taught “A good communist is also a good Chekist.”
This too helps to make sense of it.
When Mensheviks objected to Lenin’s personal attacks, he replied frankly that his purpose was not to convince but to destroy his opponent. In work after work, Lenin does not offer arguments refuting other Social Democrats but brands them as “renegades” from Marxism. Marxists who disagreed with his naïve epistemology were “philosophic scum.” Object to his brutality and your arguments are “moralizing vomit.” …
Compulsive underlining, name calling, and personal invective hardly exhaust the ways in which Lenin’s prose assaults the reader. He does not just advance a claim, he insists that it is absolutely certain and, for good measure, says the same thing again in other words. It is absolutely certain, beyond any possible doubt, perfectly clear to anyone not dull-witted. Any alliance with the democratic bourgeoisie can only be short-lived, he explains: “This is beyond doubt. Hence the absolute necessity of a separate . . . strictly class party of Social Democrats. . . . All this is beyond the slightest possible doubt.” Nothing is true unless it is absolutely, indubitably so; if a position is wrong, it is entirely and irredeemably so; if something must be done, it must be done “immediately, without delay”; Party representatives are to make “no concessions whatsoever.” Under Lenin’s direction the Party demanded “the dissolution of all groups without exception formed on the basis of one platform or another” (italics mine). It was not enough just to shoot kulaks summarily, they had “to be shot on the spot without trial,” a phrase that in one brief decree he managed to use in each of its six numbered commands before concluding: “This order is to be carried out strictly, mercilessly.” You’d think that was clear enough already.
No concessions, compromises, exceptions, or acts of leniency; everything must be totally uniform, absolutely the same, unqualifiedly unqualified. At one point he claims that the views of Marx and Engels are “completely identical,” as if they might have been incompletely identical.
They are cute in their base ignorance and stupidity and inane in their objectives, as with Bernie Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez, but that is only because their power is limited. Like Morson, I grew up in a red diaper family and have learned to fear these people as the totaliarian mass murderers each of them potentially is. As he writes:
These and other disastrous Leninist ideas derived from a specific Leninist way of thinking, and that is what this essay focuses on. I know this way of thinking in my bones. I am myself a pink diaper baby and I remember being taught this way of thinking, taken for granted by all right-thinking people. Memoirs of many ex-Communists, from David Horowitz to Richard Wright, confirm that, more than doctrines, it was the Leninist style of thought that defined the difference between an insider and an outsider. And that way of thought is very much with us.
That last sentence in black is why this article is so important. I will end with his final para which again emphasises the point:
When I detect Leninist ways of thinking today, people respond: surely you don’t think all those social justice warriors are Leninists! Of course not. The whole point of Leninism is that only a few people must understand what is going on. That was the key insight of his tract What Is to Be Done? When Leninism is significant, there will always be a spectrum going from those who really understand, to those who just practice the appropriate responses, to those who are entirely innocent. The real questions are: Is there such a spectrum now, and how do we locate people on it? And if there is such a spectrum, what do we do about it?
There is no space to address such questions here. My point is that they need to be asked.