[January 30, 2020] One of the benefits of the study of leadership is the hunt for ideas that make us think. The “hunt” itself carries great value; like the hunt for discoveries, we find it immensely satisfying. Recent remarks by Dr. Gary Saul Morson takes on the ideas of Lenin and Lenin’s method of thinking. He calls it “Leninthink” (see link here for the audio and summary).
I’m often asked why I oppose socialism and communism, two ideologies that differ only in degree but not upon its foundation. Ideas of Dr. Morson help frame it nicely. The quotes below are his words.
“As we approach the 150th anniversary of Lenin’s birth, understanding him grows ever more important. Despite the fall of the Soviet Union, Leninist ways of thinking continue to spread, especially among Western radicals who have never read a word of Lenin.”
Dr. Morson proposes that Leninthink is not just wrong or radical but an existential threat to democratic notions of nation and state. It is based wholly upon terror.
“Stephen Pinker has recently argued that the world has been getting less bloodthirsty. The Mongols, after all, destroyed entire cities. But the Mongols murdered other people; what is new, and uniquely horrible about the Soviets and their successors, is that they directed their fury at their own people.”
Lenin regarded all interactions as zero-sum. His firm belief was that to the extent that we gain, you lose. In the marketplace, transactions are non-forced social interactions. Both the seller and buyer gain from the effort of a deal. Communism was created with the opposite idea; that “all” economic transactions are necessarily exploitive.
“Such thinking automatically favors extreme solutions. If there is one sort of person Lenin truly hated more than any other, it is—to use some of his more printable adjectives—the squishy, squeamish, spineless, dull-witted liberal reformer. In philosophical issues, too, there can never be a middle ground. If you are not a materialist in precisely Lenin’s interpretation, you are an idealist, and idealism is simply disguised religion supporting the bourgeoisie.”
Thus, to denigrate the socialist ideology in any way or to shift away from it in the slightest degree means to strengthen the bourgeois ideology. Every idea, solution, or effort that suggests a middle path is deception and must be stopped.
In [Lenin’s] view, Marx’s greatest contribution was not the idea of the class struggle but “the dictatorship of the proletariat,” and as far back as 1906 Lenin had defined dictatorship as “nothing other than power which is totally unlimited by any laws, totally unrestrained by absolutely any rules, and based directly on force.”
Lenin always insisted on the most violent solutions. He rebuked subordinates for not using enough force to retrain mobs from lynchings and for not randomly shooting chosen hostages. Force had a mystical attraction for Lenin.
“Lenin constantly recommended that people be shot “without pity” or “exterminated mercilessly.” “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.’”
A unique logic, too, apparently governs the Leninist approach to morality. Lenin believed that any morality that holds that whatever contributes to State success is moral. Whatever hinders, it is immoral.
“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).”
For Lenin, there must be no concessions, compromises, exceptions, or acts of leniency. Everything must be totally uniform, absolutely the same, unqualifiedly unqualified. And, this explains why I despise the ideology of socialism and communism so unequivocally and without hesitation. There is no middle ground.