The year 2009 marks the 85th anniversary of the death of the man who, together with Leon Trotsky, made a decisive contribution to the cause of socialism and the working class in this century, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. To mark the occasion, we are republishing this article which was originally written to commemorate the Lenin centenary in 1970.
Vladimir Lenin is one of the most despised individuals in the West. Common knowledge would have you believe that he set up the entire system and that Stalin was just following the plan that was in place all along. Trotsky, of course, gets dumped on the same way. Needless to say there is more to it than that.
The early symptoms of bureaucratic degeneration in Russia were already noted by Lenin in the last two years of his politically active life. He spent his last months fighting against these reactionary tendencies, leaving behind a vital heritage of struggle in his last letters and articles. The struggle of the anti-Stalinist Left Opposition, led by Trotsky after Lenin’s death, really begins here.
The article is worth reading, if only for the fact that we get a different appraisal of Lenin’s final days than we get in the US. You don’t have to believe that Lenin was some paragon of virtue to get anything from it. You may even come out thinking exactly the same about Lenin as you did before reading it. Much of how we think about Lenin has been clouded by two major reactions: 1) The fact that the workers’ revolution overthrew the Czar and threatened to expand a Socialist revolution throughout Europe and the world, and 2) Stalin, Stalinism and what the Soviet Union became which was seen through a Cold War pair of glasses.
Read what Woods wrote in 1970. Even if you don’t change your mind, you may find that you have been able to learn something. If so, it will be worth the effort.