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July 21, 2017


I have often wondered why Trump would keep a self-professed “Leninist” such as Bannon on staff as a chief adviser, a Leninist who admittedly intends to “destroy the administrative state,” as did Lenin with the October, 1917, Russian Revolution, whose centenary will be celebrated (?) in the next few months, and then it occurred to me that perhaps Trump is either a “Leninist” or a sympathizer with this old Bolshevik’s dictatorial rule and merciless purging of even those in his own party, otherwise why would he keep an adviser in place who openly admires the communist founder of the old Soviet State?

I have written on this topic before, but was inspired to write about it in more detail again after reading a piece in the July edition of Harper’s Magazine written by Sheila Fitzpatrick entitled “Tomb Raiders, The afterlives of Lenin, in which she reviews five good to middling biographies of Lenin. I could be wrong in assuming that Trump is a Leninist since Lenin was an intellectual beyond the capacity of Trump to understand; it may well be that Trump is attracted not to communism but to Lenin’s authoritarian rule, an arena in which Trump has demonstrated considerable interest with his putdowns of anybody of any party or anyone else who stand in his way. Also, his continuing admiration of Putin as “a strong leader” lends credence to my suspicion, and parenthetically, as one of Fitzpatrick’s biographers writes, and for what it is worth, that Putin’s grandfather was a cook for Lenin, a culinary connection Putin must not like since Putin favors the murderous politics of Stalin over the somewhat less murderous politics of Lenin.

Lenin, the father of the Soviet state, is old news these days, having died in 1924 only seven years into the existence of the state he founded, followed by Joseph Stalin and his successor, Nikita Krushchev. In just a few months (October) we will take note of the storming of Petrograd and seizure of power from the Romanov Dynasty by communist revolutionaries. Some historians argue that this century-old radical change in Russian politics was not a revolution but a coup. However that may be, the Bolsheviks (a minority party within communism) with Lenin as their leader came out on top and he ruled along with his sidekick Stalin until his death in 1924, followed by Stalin’s long rule into the middle 1950s when he passed on. Both were Bolshevik communists and managed to grab power from the majority communists, the Mensheviks, in 1903, due to Lenin’s efforts in dividing the party.

Lenin is not Lenin. Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, who assumed the revolutionary name Lenin in 1901, was born into a middle class family in 1870. He was in his last year of high school in 1887 when his older brother, Alexander, was hanged as a revolutionary by the Romanov Dynasty (the last Romanovs czar and czarina of Russia who were later executed on Lenin’s order in a tit for tat game of murder after his Bolshevik Party pulled off their successful October, 1917, communist revolution). The Romanovs’ mad monk adviser, Rasputin, had been executed earlier by elements of the Romanovs’ secret police, perhaps unhappy with his influence over the royal family in the game of palace intrigue then practiced. Bannon as an adviser cannot be compared with Rasputin who never went to school whereas Bannon is well-educated and even (as seems obligatory these days) a product of the Goldman Sachs banking system.

Lenin was exiled for revolutionary activity to Siberia in 1895 where he met his wife, a fellow revolutionary. Later in their marriage he fell in love with another woman, the beautiful Inessa Armand, an upper-class French-Russian revolutionary. His wife, true to her views that marriage was a bourgeois form of ownership, not only accepted Lenin’s affair but even befriended Armand and her children.

After Lenin was released from exile in 1900, he spent nearly all of his time outside Russia (with the financial help of his mother) in different countries, especially Switzerland, a neutral country in WW I, where he and his wife frequented libraries and did translations. He kept in touch with his Bolshevik comrades back in Russia, who, like Stalin, were in and out of jail and exile. He was opposed to Russia’s war with Kaiser Germany and returned to Russia in the spring of 1917 to preside over the later takeover of Russia that October.

After his Bolshevik takeover in 1917, and for the next seven years prior to his death, he was very much into education reform, thinking that one of the most important and urgent tasks of his revolutionary regime and the success of socialism was to educate the young (aka indoctrination, much as we are indoctrinating our children today with “free market capitalism.”) In a real paradox, Lenin in this effort to educate is the same Lenin who was simultaneously urging mass assassinations of priests and church gold. (I trust this is not a latter day objective of Bannon and Trump in their quest to destroy the administrative state and assume authoritarian power due to such a political vacuum they created.)

Fitzpatrick writes that “Today, Lenin and his legacy are perceived as hopelessly dated, belonging to a defunct “paradigm.” Not only was Lenin understandably blind to many of the problems that are now central to contemporary life (ecology, struggles for emancipated sexuality, etc.), his brutal political practice is totally out of sync with current democratic sensitivities, his vision of the new society as a centralized industrial system run by the state is simply irrelevant.”

Are you listening, Messrs. Trump and Bannon? It’s over, so what are you thinking, and if you are, is all this Lenin and Putin worship merely a front for “acts of resistance” you have concocted as a prelude to your own takeover, but with “free market” fundamentalism as your ally and a vision of authoritarian control wedded to runaway capitalism for America’s future? Whatever happened to Lincoln’s Gettysburg declaration of “that government of the people, by the people and for the people” in which he summarized the basic underpinnings of our democracy? How does that fit ien with dictatorship?

It is true that the Romanov Dynasty was dictatorial and in need of drastic reform, but when communism became the reforming agency, you wound up with just another dictatorship. Communism, like Lenin, is dead, and if capitalism continues on its wild-west course without regulation and restraint while impoverishing the rest of us, it may be on its last legs as well, so let’s end these love affairs with the past, reform the current lopsided rewards to financiers and not producers, enjoy the fruits and expansion of our democracy, and go from there.

Can’t be done? A theoretical nirvana out of reach in the real world? Not so. It already has been done, and not with the help of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” or inspired CEOs or Reagan’s “magic of the market.” It has been done by those who made policy for our country for some 35 or 40 years following WW II, and it can happen again if we have the political will to make it happen, global economics, outsourcing etc. notwithstanding. How to make it happen? Elect different politicians, those who are more concerned with the common good than the Dow and reelection, those who have more concern for the fate of their country than the power and preening that goes with electoral success. When? Now.      GERALD      E


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