Was Lenin a 'Good' Man?



After his death the Politburo decided that Lenin's body should be embalmed and put on display in a glass case in a special mausoleum, to be built in Red Square in Moscow. The Politburo members, especially Joseph Stalin, encouraged the Lenin cult for all they were worth, hoping to share in his popularity by presenting themselves as Lenin's heirs, who would continue his policies. No criticism of Lenin was allowed, and Petrograd was renamed Leningrad. He became revered almost as a saint, and people flocked to Red Square to view his remains as though they were religious relics. Some historians admire him: A. J. P. Taylor claimed that 'Lerun did more than any other political figure to change the face of the twentieth-century world. The creation of Soviet Russia and its survival were due to him. He was a very great man and even, despite his faults, a very good man.' Some revisionist historians also took a sympathetic view. Moshe Lewin, writing in 1968, portrayed Lenin as having been forced unwillingly into policies of violence and terror, and in his last years, in the face of ill health and the evil ambitions of Stalin, struggling unsuccessfully to steer communism into a more peaceful and civilised phase. These interpretations are at opposite poles from what some of his contemporaries thought, and also from the traditional liberal view which sees Lenin as a ruthless dictator who paved the way for the even more ruthless and brutal dictatorship of Stalin. Alexander Potresov, a Menshevik who knew Lenin well, described him as an 'evil genius' who had a hypnotic effect on people that enabled him to dominate them. Richard Pipes can find scarcely a smgle good word to say about Lenin. He emphasizes Lenin's cruelty and his apparent lack of remorse at the great loss of life which he had caused. The success of the Bolshevik seizure of power in October 1917 was nothing to do with social forces - it was simply because Lenin lusted after power.
Robert Service probably presents the most balanced view of Lenin. He concludes that Lenin was certainly ruthless. intolerant and repressive, and even seemed to enjoy unleash­ ing terror. But although he sought power, and believed that dictatorship was desirable, power was not an end in itself. In spite of all his faults, he was a visionary: 'Lenin truly thought that a better world should and would be built, a world without repression and explottat1on. a world without even a state.... It was his judgement, woeful as it was, that the Dictatorship of the Proletariat would act as midwife to the birth of such a world.' He points out that with the introduction of NEP. the situation began to settle down. 'The Cheka's resources were limited and its repressive functions somewhat moderated. Religion was openly practised. Age-old peasant customs were left undisturbed. Whole sections of economic activity were released from state ownership.· Perhaps it was one of the great tragedies of the twentieth century that Lenin died prematurely before his vision could be realized. Nevertheless his achievements make him one of the great political figures of the last century. In the words of Robert Service: 'He led the October revolution, founded the USSR and laid down the rudiments of Marxist-Leninism. He helped to turn a world upside down.·

Did the people mean 'nothing' to Lenin? Copied this out from Christopher Read (259):   
Lenin's critics have suggested that, in the words of Richard Pipes, ' as far as his personality is concerned, we note his disregard for human life, except where his own family and closest associates were concerned. Of them he was very solicitous' and again 'For humankind at large Lenin had nothing but scorn.' Lenin may have had many faults but it is hard to see how one could reach such a conclusion. We have already seen many occasions on which Lenin expressed concern for individuals as well as for groups, not least the victims of the war. The fact that Leninist historiography painted an over-rosy picture of his concerns doesn't mean the opposite is true. Stories of him meeting and discussing with workers are not all fiction. Before adopting the NEP he had several informal meetings with groups of peasants in the Gorky area, for instance, and he also consulted locals while he was on a rare hunting trip in September 1920. He frequently diverted gifts sent to him by soldiers' and workers' delegations, to children’s hospitals and sanitaria. On several occasions he asked for special consideration to be afforded to 'defective adolescents' as he called them, or special-needs teenagers as we would call them today. He even, on one occasion, called for an individual's commandeered bicycle to be returned to its rightful owner! While one would not want to put too much store by acts of 'official' generosity, there is nothing in Lenin's background to suggests he was as misanthropic as he is sometimes painted. All was done in the stern confines of Bolshevik morality, of course, which required duty before sentimentality, but there are no grounds to charge Lenin with utter disregard for human life.  

 From Robert Gellately (8):  Lenin had remarkably little empathy for the hopes and aspirations of the common people, whether they were peasant farmers or members of the industrial working class. H believed that the workers were the only 'revolutionary class' but if left to their own devices, they would want 'merely' better wages and social improvements- in other words, trade-union demands that, in his eyes, betrayed their limited imagination. The Russian writer Maxim Gorky accurately summed up Lenin's attitude in November 1917, at the very start of the new regime, when its character was barely defined. "The working class is for Lenin what ore is for the metalworker. Is it possible, under all present conditions, to mould a socialist state from this ore? Apparently it is impossible; however- why not try? What does Lenin risk if the experiment should fail?"  Lenin derived his "legitimacy and authority not from the people but from Marxism and the laws of history" of which he "supposedly had superior knowledge. (15)   

 Under Lenin, Russian workers in 1924 had more rights than workers in most other countries. The Labour Law of 1922 gave workers were entitled to an eight-hour day, to two weeks’ paid holiday each year, and to social insurance benefits such as sick pay, unemployment pay and old age pensions.   By the Marriage Laws of 1918 couples could marry simply by entering their names in a public marriage register. Divorce was just as easy to obtain if both partners agreed to it. Free love was encouraged and abortion was permitted without restriction. Young people found that life at school was much more free under Communist rule. The authority of teachers over pupils was very restricted. ‘Useless’ subjects such as history and ancient languages were abolished, and the sciences were encouraged instead.  


Some historians admire him: A. J. P. Taylor claimed that 
'Lenin did more than any other political figure to change the face of the twentieth-century world. The creation of Soviet Russia and its survival were due to him. He was a very great man and even, despite his faults, a very good man.
But others see him as a ruthless dictator who paved the way for the even more ruthless and brutl dictatorship of Stalin. He rejected genuine democracy when he used force to disperse the Constituent Assembly in 1918. He was convinced that the Bolshevik party had an historic mission: to lead the working-class revolution; since the working class were small in number and needed to be led and guided, it followed, as he himself put it, that "the will of a class is sometimes fulfilled by a dictator." The killing of thousands of opponents during the Red Terror was also justified, in Lenin's eyes, by the need to fulfil his mission. When he died, Lenin left in place the weapons which Stalin was able to use for his tyranny- the party state, a ban on 'factionalism' the use of secret police, and the removal of most of the powers of trade unions.
His defenders argue that had Lenin lived another twenty years (to the same age as Stalin), Russia would have developed quite differently. or example, the unofficial Soviet historian Roy Medvedev, believes that Lenin intended to continue NEP for perhaps another twenty-five years, and to launch a campaign among the peasants to develop literacy, to teach them how to produce and use agricultural machinery and tractors and to show them the benefits of agrarian co-operatives. This was how socialism would triumph in the end, not through the Stalin method of brute force.

Lenin and Stalin had many characteristics in common, but many marked differences. Lenin’s character had many key strengths. One of his major strengths was that he was a great intellectual. Indeed Lenin was one of the leading Russian writers and thinkers of the period publishing many works. Lenin was unquestionably brilliant and a great organiser. He was also exceptionally hard working and one hundred percent dedicated to his cause. He had this natural ability to “seize the moment”. History illustrates so many times this was vital to the Bolshevik success. For example because of continuing war and famine, and break down of law and order, were not being dealt with by the Provisional Government, he knew they were a “weak target”. He seized the moment by ordering revolution. His leadership transformed the Bolshevik party from a small/minority party to take and hold power. Stalin’s character had many strengths but also weaknesses. In contrast to Lenin, Stalin was comparatively dull. He could not in any way match the intellectual ability of Lenin. However like Lenin, Stalin was a good organizer, and hard working and absolutely dedicated.

  Another positive aspect of Lenin’s character was that he was not vain, and an important strength was that he trusted his close colleagues and allies. For example Trotsky created the Red Army and Lenin showed his complete trust in Trotsky by giving him a free hand in military matters. These attributes contrast markedly with those of Stalin. Unlike Lenin, Stalin was rude and ambitious. He was very vain and excessively neurotic. For example, although he was the undisputed leader of Russia by 1930, he became terrified/neurotic that others wanted to overthrow him. He frequently got rid of rivals even if they were of no threat to him. Unlike Lenin, Stalin trusted no one and ran everything.

One of the other great strengths of Lenin, was that he commanded great respect and personal loyalty. This loyalty allowed him to change policies even when they were unpopular within the Bolshevik Party. An example is the struggle over NEP (New Economic Policy). The arguments concerning the NEP were so divisive that the Party may well have split over it, had it not been for Lenin’s great moral authority and his ability to “command personal loyalty”. Lenin always had a realistic approach to his problems. Lenin’s realism demanded that political theory take second place to economic necessity. Lenin was pragmatic and was able to change his policies. A good example was his adoption of war communism to win the civil war, and then to introduce the NEP afterwards to help the economy recover. Lenin knew the NEP was a retreat from the principle of “State Control” of the economy. His pragmatic character comes out in the statement in 1921 to the party concerning NEP: “let the peasants have their little bit of capitalism as long as we keep power”. Stalin by contrast did not command such personal loyalty. People were in the main ‘loyal’ to Stalin through fear. I believe that Stalin was also quite pragmatic, but only when it suited his own ambitions and interests. For example Stalin helped the Republicans during the Spanish Civil war by supplying them with weapons whereas the Fascists were helped by Hitler. However, Stalin did make a Nazi-Soviet Pact in 1939 and agreed for the division of Poland between the USSR and Germany. Stalin wanted to defer war, as the USSR was not ready. He was similarly pragmatic in signing a neutrality pact with Japan in April 1941, hoping this would allow the USSR time to build up its industrial strength.
Both Lenin and Stalin could be brutal and merciless. However they differed in their motives and scale of brutality. Lenin certainly could be ruthless when the situation required him to be so. An example is implementing “War Communism” which caused great suffering but which he considered to be a great necessity of the time. Other examples are setting up CHEKA and Labour Camps and putting down rebellions such as the Krondstadt Naval Base mutiny of 1921. This was despite the fact they had supported the communists in1917. However in my opinion Lenin did not remotely approach Stalin when it came to the barbarous, callous, and merciless treatment metered out to the people. Indeed few people in history can compare with Stalin in terms of shear ruthlessness and evil. Stalin’s ruthlessness was for the benefit of Stalin. His ruthless character is shown throughout his reign of terror in destroying Leftists and Rightists in the 1920’s and the 1930’s. For example by 1939 approximately 3 million people were dead and 9 million were political prisoners through his orders. He masterminded the “Gulag” where millions would die in labour camps for trivial offences. His ruthlessness continued throughout the Second World War up until his death. Lenin was ruthless for a cause, but was not psychotic. Lady Astor once asked Stalin how long he would go on killing people for. He replied “ as long as necessary”. This shows his evil character. “Death solves all problems. No man, no problem”. This again illustrates murder poses no problem for Stalin.
In terms of their beliefs both believed in Marxism. Marx saw Capitalism as wrong and history as a process of change. They therefore both believed in violent revolution by the workers after which the means of production would be for every ones benefit and shared (Communism). Lenin believed passionately in the ideals of communism even though he would ‘dilute’ these if conditions dictated he do so (e.g. advocating NEP). Stalin by contrast ran everything. His policies were often completely different from Communist ideas. People loyal to Stalin (e.g. Party apparatchiks) received privileges, holidays, houses etc. Lenin believed he was working for the people and was liked by many. By contrast Stalin only worked for Stalin. Unlike Lenin, he had no illusions that he was working for the people. Stalin did not care if he was liked of not.
A major difference between the beliefs of Lenin and Stalin was the concept of World Revolution. For Communism to survive in Russia there had to be world revolution. Lenin set up the Communist International (Comintern) in 1919 to spread communism. Lenin believed strongly in exporting revolution whenever possible. For example in 1920 the Red army marched into Poland, hoping the Polish workers, would rise against their government. However, the Poles drove the Russians out. He thought this reversal, together with the failed communist revolutions in Germany and Hungary, showed the time was not ripe. He did not however abandon his long-term beliefs in “world revolution”. Stalin by contrast believed firmly in the concept of “Communism in one country”. Although Stalin encouraged revolution this was only if it did not prove detrimental to the Soviet Unions interests.
Before the Russian Revolution, Russia was ruled by the Tsar. The Tsar was an all-powerful autocratic ruler. He ruled without parliament, and most of the countries wealth and land was owned by a small noble class. Lenin played a central role in the fall of the Tsarist System. He was a leader of a small party, the Bolsheviks, but his brilliant leadership, opportunism, and organizational skills allowed his party to seize and hold onto power. It is unlikely that without Lenin the Bolshevik party would have succeeded in taking control of the Revolution and Russia. Whereas the Provisional Government wanted compromise, Lenin wanted Revolution. In Lenin’s April theses he urged Revolution. He called for an end to the ‘Capitalist War’, and demanded that power should be given to the Soviets- elected comities of workers, peasants, and soldiers. He demanded a Revolution against the Provisional Government as soon as possible, and in October/November 1917 he took power. After Lenin took power he established a communist system of government, which continued to impact the lives of Russians till almost the end of the 20th century.
Although Lenin was in power for only six years much change occurred during this time impacting on Russia and its people:

· When Lenin took power the peasants were given the Tsar’s and the Church’s lands. The factories and industries were put into the hands of the workers. 

 * Almost immediately after the revolution Lenin took Russia out of the First World War. However Lenin had to agree to the Treaty of Brest-Litvosk in 1918. The treaty meant that one-quarter of Russia’s population and land, and much of Russia’s heavy industry, iron and coal, was lost to Germany. However some lands were subsequently re-gained after Germany was defeated. 

 * Lenin’s activities in1917-1918 made him many enemies. The Civil War broke out in 1918 and lasted until 1920. Lenin was determined and ruthless in defeating the whites. He introduced “War Communism”. This made sure the army and towns were fed in order to win the war. People’s rights were severely restricted and it had a major effect on their lives. i) Farms and factories were put under control and private trade was banned; ii) Peasants were forced to give food to soldiers (Red Army) and also provide food for industrial workers. Many peasants objected to this and were either killed or sent to forced labour/prison camps; iii) Workers rights were stamped upon. Industrial workers were not allowed to strike and everyone (16-60 years of age) except sick and elderly had to work; iv) The secret police (CHEKA) repressed, hunted down, and murdered those who threatened the state. Although the Red Army won the Civil War, the effects of Lenin’s War Communism was famine and decline (from1920-1921> 7 million people died of starvation, workers abandoned towns, and industry declined). There were many revolts and mutinies due to Lenin’s War Communism, (e.g. Kronstadt Mutiny of 1921) which Lenin ordered to be put down ruthlessly.
* By 1920/1921 there was major economic problems and unrest. Now the Civil War had been won, it was necessary for Lenin to keep support of the people and to keep control of the public opinion. So Lenin decided to change the Communist Policy. In 1921 Lenin introduced a “New Economic Policy”(NEP) to restore order and prosperity (in particular Russia’s urgent need for food) after years of suffering through the Tsar, Revolution, Civil War, and War Communism. The NEP impacted in a major way on Russians lives as it essentially reversed ‘War Communism’. Basically NEP involved allowing; i) peasants to sell excess food (and pay tax on profits); ii) small businesses, e.g. shops, that were not under ‘state control’ could make a profit; iii) Important/ key industries under state ownership/control e.g. coal, steel, transport, stayed in the state control but salaries were increased to encourage greater efficiency. Although Lenin did not see the full impact of his NEP, this by the late 1920’s allowed economic recovery and more prosperity for people.
* Under Lenin more hospitals were built and medical care was free.

* Marriage laws were relaxed and divorce could be had for the asking.

* Women were given the same opportunities as men in education and careers.

* Despite economic difficulties, more schools were built. The strict classroom discipline of the Tsarist days was abandoned. In order to arouse the pupil’s interest and sense of responsibility, they were often allowed to organize the school routine themselves. At the worst, this lead to teachers struggling for survival among unruly pupils; but at the best it brought a spirit of friendliness and co-operation into the classroom.

 * Universities were opened to the intelligent child from a working-class family but closed to the child of a former factory manager or landowner.
* Religion was permitted, but strongly discouraged, by Lenin’s Communists. Many churches were turned into schools or warehouses and priests were placed in the lowest group of non-working citizens.

In summary, although Lenin was in power for only a short period of time he had an immense influence on the lives of ordinary Russian citizens and on the nature of the society that would succeed him. He led Russia through revolution taking land from the Tsar and his followers and putting the means of industrial production into the hands of the workers. He succeeded in taking Russia out of the Great War, won the Civil War, and made sweeping social changes benefiting his people. However, the Civil War and Lenin’s policy of War Communism created severe stress in the country at large, leading to revolts and riots, strikes and unimaginable human suffering. In addition, on the negative-side he also introduced measures to severely restrict people’s freedom and introduced a repressive secret police. Despite these negative aspects, on balance I consider Lenin’s contribution was overwhelming positive.
“Lenin did more than any other political leader to change the face of the twentieth-century world. The creation of Soviet Russia and its survival were due to him”(AJP Taylor). 

 EXAMPLE ONE

“If you took the most ardent revolutionary, vested in him absolute power, within a year he would be worse that the Tsar himself.” The words of Mikhail Bakunin may apply to Lenin more than any other revolutionary of the 20th century. To Lenin the people’s will was irrelevant if it contradicted his own. There is no denying that Lenin industrialized and helped to modernize Russia, however the way in which he did it shows that it was in the name of ideology not the name of the people. This essay will argue that Lenin ruled through fear and intimidation rather than fervour. Furthermore this essay will show that Lenin crushed all opposition, creating a totalitarian state rather than a communist one.

            AJP Taylor states that Lenin was ‘not just a great man, he may have been a good man’. The idea of Lenin as a good man is the idea that without Lenin the Russian people would never have been ‘liberated’. After all he was the one who promised ‘Peace, Bread, Land’ and ‘all power to the soviets’. The people of Russia needed someone like Lenin to fulfil the revolution. This is evident in the July Days where the Provisional Government of Kerensky made one error after the other. The unsuccessful June Offensive and the lack of land reform or free elections lead the sailors of Kronstadt and the people of Petrograd to protest. The Kornilov Affair in August pushed Kerensky to utilise the Bolsheviks, whom he had arrested in July, in order to halt Kornilov’s approach. If anything these events show that Kerensky’s Government had no control over its own military, lacked the ability to formulate policy, and ignored the will of the people. In contrast Lenin made good on all the promises the Provisional Government never fulfilled. He brought about land reform, ended Russia’s involvement in the First World War, and he finally brought about free elections. Lenin took power and immediately abolished the ownership of ‘private property’, giving the land into the hands of the farmers. This demonstrates that Lenin genuinely cared for the farmers, he gave them their own land and made them equal. The farmers were extremely grateful to Lenin. They did not fear him; they respected him for liberating them from the bourgeoisie landowners. Furthermore Lenin ended Russia’s involvement in the First World War. Lenin believed that he knew the will of the people better than the people themselves. Perhaps he was right, the treaty of Brest-Litovsk indicates this. The decision to sign the treaty of Brest-Litovsk was highly unpopular, yet it ended the loss of Russian lives and allowed Lenin to concentrate on the internal affairs of Russia. After ending the war Lenin was able to hold free elections and ‘carry out the will of the people’.  The idea that Lenin may have been a good man is supported by the fact that he ended Russia’s involvement in the First World War, brought about land reform, and held free elections. These actions seem to indicate that Lenin ruled through fervour rather than fear.

            However for all the ‘good’ in the man that was Lenin, he was overpowered by his urge to retain power. As Bakunin points out ‘absolute power’ corrupts even ‘the most ardent revolutionary’. Lenin’s decision to shut down the Constituent Assembly seems to point towards a man who was more concerned with retaining power than the will of the people. Lenin’s argument that he was merely ‘carrying out the will of the people’ by ‘crushing the Constituent Assembly’ is nullified by the fact that the ‘people’ only gave Lenin’s party 23 percent of the votes. Lenin did not speak for the people when he closed the Constituent Assembly after one day, he spoke for himself. The creation of the Cheka, in December, further suggests that Lenin planned to take and consolidate power by force if the opposing parties became too strong. It is no wonder then that on August 30th 1918 Fanya Kaplan, a member of the Social Revolutionaries, shot him. The ensuing ‘Red Terror’ was the systematic eradication of all those who opposed the Bolsheviks rule. This systematic removal of all opposing parties indicates a power hungry dictator rather than the ‘good man’ described by AJP Taylor. Perhaps the defining moment of Lenin’s consolidation of power was the 1921 uprising of the Kronstadt Sailors. Once dubbed the ‘Vanguard of the Revolution’ by Lenin himself, they were arrested and executed after they called for free elections. This is the strongest indicator that Lenin ruled through fear rather than fervor. He tolerated absolutely no opposition and crushed those who opposed him mercilessly. Furthermore Lenin was more concerned with spreading his own ideology of revolution to the rest of the world than he was with feeding his own citizens. As Dmitri Volkogonov points out ‘in the course of 1922…more than 19 million gold Roubles were sent to China, India, Persia, Hungary…to give impulse to the revolutionary process.’ Meanwhile in 1922 an estimated seven and a half million people died of starvation inside Russia. If anything this indicates that Lenin could not care less about his own people, rather he was pre-occupied with spreading his ideology.

            When taking into account the actions of Lenin and the Bolshevik party from 1917 to 1918, one gets the distinct impression that a thirst for power overpowers the ‘good’. For all his promises of ‘Peace, Bread, Land’ Lenin didn’t fulfil any of the three. Peace with Germany was eventually achieved in March 1918, yet it didn’t last. In June 1918 the Russian Civil War broke out, it lasted until 1921. Even though Lenin’s supporters will claim that he was forced into the civil war, Lenin had created the environment for it. By shutting down the Constituent Assembly and signing the highly unpopular treaty of Brest-Litovsk Lenin had angered all of his opposition to the point where they felt that they had no choice but to go to war. The Social Revolutionaries were outraged that Lenin had ignored their victory in the elections and shut down the Constituent Assembly, meanwhile tsarists, nationalists, as well as Britain and the United States were angered by the treaty of Brest-Litovsk. The Americans and British felt that Russia had betrayed them and left them alone in the fight against the Germans. Furthermore the tsarists and nationalists used the treaty of Brest-Litovsk as propaganda to point out the fact that Lenin was destroying Russia rather than saving it. This is hugely important because it shows that Lenin’s promise of ‘Peace’ was only upheld for about three and a half months, from March to June. This indicates that Lenin’s promise of ‘Peace’ was more propaganda than it was truth. The people were a senseless mass to Lenin that could be manipulated using an appealing slogan; he did not actually care for them. Secondly Lenin’s promise of ‘Bread’ and ‘Land’ were only half fulfilled as well. The Bolshevik Party did abolish the private ownership of land, and decided to allow farmers to work the land for their own benefit, yet once the civil war broke out this promise was withdrawn. The same is true for the promise of ‘Bread’. Lenin’s decision to implement War Communism resulted in huge food shortages because all surplus food was used for the war effort. Seven and a half million Russian people died as a result. Once again these events show that Lenin used ‘Peace Bread Land’ as propaganda rather than truly meaning it. If anything this shows a side of Lenin that cares about nothing except his own ideology, it shows a Lenin who will go to any means necessary to retain power, even if it means he must sacrifice seven and a half million Russian people.

            Lenin was undoubtedly a decisive figure of Russian history. However his legacy is highly disputed. AJP Taylor said he ‘was not only a great man, he may have been a great man’. I fail to see how this is true when Lenin so obviously ignored the people and ruthlessly lusted after his own power and spreading his own ideology. After all Bakunin says ‘if you took the most ardent revolutionary, vested in him ultimate power, within a year he will be worse than the Tsar himself’. Sadly this seems to be truer of Lenin.   



‘For Lenin the Revolution was everything, the people of Russia nothing.’
 
This assertion causes a major problem, as the nature of the statement is very black and white. Using the words ‘everything’ or ‘nothing’ always causes issues because it only takes one exception to bring the whole thesis into question. Another issue is the definition of the word ‘people’. For the sake of this essay, people will be defined as the proletariat. Therefore this essay will argue whether the Revolution or the Russian proletariat were more important to Lenin. In order to do so this essay will present aspects where Lenin cared for his people, juxtaposed to examples where Lenin overlooked the needs of the proletariat in order to further the Revolution. Ultimately it will be concluded that the Revolution meant more to Lenin than did the people. 

The first argument to be presented considers aspects of Lenin’s care for his people. Lenin’s implementation of a communist state and a communist society are the best examples in support of the argument that he showed great concern for the working class people of Russia. His aim was to put an end to and prevent the re-establishment of the power of the bourgeoisie. Instead Lenin wanted power to lie with the proletariat. The introduction of communist laws serves as a good example of the fulfilment of this aim. One such law was to assign to the peasants, land previously owned by the Tsar or nobles. Another of these laws was that committees of workers were to be elected. These committees would control the factories. These laws resulted in peasants owning and working their land and workers owning and operating their factories. This was a major step in Lenin’s fight to remove class barriers and, as such supports the argument that he cared about working class people. Other examples of Lenin’s support of the Russian people can be found in his attempts to introduce a communist way of life into Russia. A Labour Law gave workers an 8-hour working day as well as unemployment pay and pensions. Furthermore he introduced a huge campaign focused on increasing literacy rates and scientific education. Not only that but he also allowed easy marriage, divorce and abortion. In Lenin’s initial idea of a communist society people would have more freedom as well as equal opportunities. 

The second, more compelling argument is that the Revolution was Lenin’s top priority; care for the people just an adjunct. The most telling example of this was Lenin’s decision to dissolve the Constituent Assembly. The elections held in November 1917 gave 370 seats to the Social Revolutionaries whilst the Bolsheviks won only 175 seats. This was not in Lenin’s plans, as he required a Bolshevik majority to push through his ideas of what the Revolution should be. Therefore Lenin sent in the Red Guards to shut down the Assembly only a few months later. Any objectors were mercilessly liquidated. Lenin showed very little interest in public opinion. He even took control of the press. As soon as results did not go his way he closed the Assembly and ruled by decree. Another example of Lenin’s disregard for his people was his urge for Russia to sign the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. This treaty, signed in March 1918, gave up 1.3 million square miles of Russian territory to Germany. This not only ceded much of Russia’s finest agricultural and industrial land but also 62 million people became German subjects. The signing of this treaty attested to Lenin’s willingness to give up whatever it took for the greater good of his Revolution. Yet another example of the Revolution taking priority over the needs of the masses can be found during the famine of 1921 to 1922. At the time about 25 million people were starving in Russia. As people ate dead bodies in order to stay alive the Party leadership was sending money and gold to foreign Communist Parties in an attempt to encourage world revolutions. In 1922 alone more than 19 million Roubles worth of gold and treasure was distributed to China, Italy, France, England and Germany as well as many other countries. It is clear that Lenin was prepared to sacrifice the people’s well-being and happiness in order to further his revolutionary aims.


When considering both arguments it becomes apparent which carries more weight. Although Lenin achieved progress away from the Autocratic society that existed under the Tsar for his people with the introduction of his communist state and communist society, this did not last long. The government had to fight a Civil War between 1918 and 1921 as a new system known as “War Communism” was introduced. This system abolished most of Lenin’s previous laws and introduced new ones. As a result factories were now taken over by the government and military discipline was instituted. Lenin also put an end to the private ownership of land. This took away all of the aforementioned freedom and equal opportunities of the people. Added to that, harsh rationing caused famine and peasants were now forced to give any surplus food to the government. Instead of feeding the starving victims of the famine, which was the result in part of harsh rationing by Lenin’s government, the food was used to feed the Bolshevik armies. Moreover workers were no longer paid; instead they were given ration cards and forced labour was inaugurated in areas of great importance to Lenin. To make matters worse, strikes were made illegal, meaning that the Russian people had no effective way of displaying their discontent. Whatever Lenin had previously done which had the Russian people’s interests at heart, the progress made was lost with the introduction of War Communism.


In conclusion, the simplicity of the assertion makes it difficult to agree with. It is not fair to say that the Russian people meant ‘nothing’ to Lenin because there are incidents where he showed care for them. Therefore this essay does not agree with the assertion. Instead it is believed that Lenin showed more interest in the triumph of his Revolution than in the welfare of the Russian people.


 ‘For Lenin the Revolution was everything, the people of Russia nothing.’ Using these documents and your own knowledge, explain to what extent you agree with this assertion

The problem with this question is that we do not know Lenin. The accounts of him constantly oppose each other and disagree when it comes to his personality or personal desires and intentions. While historians such as Orlando Figes and Sheila Fitzpatrick argue that Lenin was a merciless and pragmatic dictator others such as Christopher Read and Lars Lih argue that he did not just use liberation and worker’s control to organize a brutal dictatorship. Was Lenin a passionate revolutionary who represented and fought for his people or was a cold hearted, ruthless leader who with a ‘take no prisoners’ moral and stop at nothing to achieve his utopia? This essay will discuss whether upon his return in 1917 the people of Russia were at the core of the revolution for him or an expendable tool to reach the greater good. 

It is understandable why one could argue that for Lenin human life was dispensable and suffering unimportant when it came to organizing a strong, one-party state. As Orlando Figes argues “He does not know the ordinary people. He has never lived among them.” [1]Lenin had been seeking revolution since a young age having been influenced by his older brother’s anti-Tsarist revolutionary ideas and hanging he joined a similar agrarian-socialist revolutionary cell in university when he was just 17. [2] [3]Soon after he was arrested and this radicalized him even more. [4]His desire for revolution was stronger than anything else in his life, he went to extreme lengths do achieve his goal. While Marxist theory believes that the revolution will naturally occur when the proletariat develops a revolutionary consciousness Lenin did not believe they would develop this consciousness and shortened the span of history by instilling this consciousness in the workers and creating a party of intellectuals to develop this and himself to vanguard. Where Marx predicted that the proletariat would revolt when capitalism has reached its peak and the country is industrialised due to the conscious majority however Lenin considered this capitalist notion to be a harmful obstacle. The success of the revolution was to be achieved at all costs and the destruction of imperialist and capitalist Russia was deemed necessary therefore the Red Terror was unleashed to crush any counter-revolutionary institutions, the "bourgeoisie press" and "religious superstition". [5] Lenin destroyed anti-revolutionary or counter-productive thought in Russia. The creation of his Cheka in December 1917 only aided this movement Felix Dzerzhinsky (the Commissar for Internal Affairs and head of the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage {Cheka}) explaining “…We have no need for justice now. Now we have need of a battle to the death! I propose, I demand the initiation of the Revolutionary sword, which will put an end to all counter-revolutionists. We must act not tomorrow, but today, at once!"[6] Lenin ruled through fear not fervour and therefore on the 24th of November Trotsky ordered the Red Army to kill every deserter or ‘any scoundrel who incites anyone to retreat … or not carry out a military order to be shot’ not only to instil fear in the average soldier but also any “agents who have penetrated Red Army units and are inciting men to desert” which had supposedly been planted by Krasnov and foreign capitalists. Anyone who was not in line with the revolutionary ideals was persecuted, especially the autocratic Orthodox Church. During the 1921-23 famine during which 25 million people were starving vast sums of money and riches taken from the 80,000 churches were send abroad to other Communist Parties to aid the revolutionary process. The sent treasure added up to around 19 million Roubles, which could have been spent on the Russian people who were eating the dead. During this time Lenin not only persecuted and executed members of the clergy, he also sent his own people a death sentence through starvation.[7] Lenin wanted a revolution and for the greater good no price was too high, not even if it was paid in human lives and suffering.  

However according to Christopher Read argues Lenin might have had his faults but his people were a driving force in his revolution. It was for them that dissolved the Constituent Assembly, for them he held elections in the first place. He recognized the Soviets as the true representation of the masses and fought for their voices to be heard instead of yet another parliament. The Soviets ‘impelled’ the people onto a path to run and organize their own lives, something the Assembly could never have achieved. [8] Lenin introduced Communist Laws such as the distribution of land from the nobles to the peasants and the control of the factories to an elected committee of workers with whom he met numerous times, especially while adopting the New Economic Policy. [9] Labour laws were introduced for an 8-hour workday, pension and unemployment payment. Under Lenin the population received a 99.7% literacy rate and education systems were established and established. Feminism gained support as Lenin stated “To effect [woman's] emancipation and make her the equal of man, it is necessary to be socialized and for women to participate in common productive labor. Then woman will be the equal of man" and divorce and abortion laws were also implemented along with the recognition of free love. [10] Lenin regularly donated and visited hospitals and sanitaria and requested special consideration for teenagers with special needs, showing his concern and willingness to build up even the ‘weaker’ groups within society. [11] Lenin and the Bolsheviks introduced the New Economic Policy to support the people. Small businesses were handed to their owners and freedom of national and minority cultures such as Islam were allowed. In the Ukraine the local language was introduced into local governments and schools, in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan bazaars were re-opened, the Koran restored, mosques re-opened and native languages were encouraged and anti-Semitism discouraged.  Unity through inclusion was practiced and experts, paid high wages, were hired to increase coal, iron, steel and railway production. While the state still had control the people were given the power and freedom of self- control, something, which had not been practiced in Tsarist Russia. As DOCUMNENT E demonstrates production levels increased after the civil war and Peasants were allowed to sell their surplus leading to many ‘self-made men’. While this capitalist approach was frowned upon especially in the Politburo, this change in Lenin’s opinions and the new systems introduced only benefited the people. A massive electricity program was introduced, something, which had been, limited to the very wealthy and introduced social security schemes. Lenin introduced a stronger, long-term communist Russia to his people and while millions died and suffered, it was for the greater good for the surviving, for the deserving. 

Was Lenin a good man? Did he care more for the people of Russia or for the Revolution? Lenin is a complex character with dozens of perspectives and impressions of his recorded it is difficult to understand or justify his decisions especially in hindsight and near impossible to understand and justify the man himself. Whether he set out to be a dictator or not millions suffered under him, millions died. A Tsarist Empire changed into a massive Union and while one can argue Lenin was not as cruelly oppressive and sadistic as Stalin nor did he kill and harm as many during the Civil War as the Whites, does that make him good or just not as bad as he could have been? This essay concludes that Lenin was pragmatic; he understood that to lead Russia into a glorious future one had to compromise and force and to know when to use or the other. Compromise by introducing a capitalist NEP and force loyalty through fear and death, during which Communist Parties in China, India, Hungary, Italy, Germany and many more looked and still do look for inspiration and guidance. Lenin was and is an enigma and maybe under his continued leadership the Soviet Union could really have been the utopia Marx and he himself had envisioned.
  

Works Cited:
   Clare, John D. "What kind of state did Lenin set up 1917–1921?." http://www.johndclare.net. 2016. Web. 23 Apr. 2016. .     Lenin, . Writings of 1918-Dissolution of the Constiuent Assembly. Russia: 1918. Print.     Figes, Orlando. "Orlando Figes > Quotes." www.goodreads.com. Web. 23 Apr. 2016.     Fischer, Louis (1964). The Life of Lenin. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.     Kreis, Steven. "The Russian Revolution: Red October and the Bolshevik Coup (2)." http://www.historyguide.org. 13 Apr. 2012. Web. 23 Apr. 2016. .     Le Blanc, Paul. "Lenin and his biographers." http://isreview.org/. July 2009. Web. 23 Apr. 2016. .     Pipes, Richard, Russia under the Bolshevik regime 1919–1924, London: 1994  Rice, Christopher (1990). Lenin: Portrait of a Professional Revolutionary. London     Ridell, John. "Lars Lih online: Recent studies on Bolshevism, Lenin, and Kautsky." https://johnriddell.wordpress.com. 16 Apr. 2013. Web. 23 Apr. 2016. .     Read, Christopher (2004). Lenin: A Revolutionary Life. London: Routledge.     Service, Robert (2000). Lenin: A Biography. London: Macmillan.     Simkin, John. "Communist Secret Police: Cheka." http://spartacus-educational.com/. Spartacus Educational Publishers Ltd., Aug. 2014. Web. 23 Apr. 2016.     Singh, Harshvardhan. "What is Leninism and how does it differ from Marxism?." Blog. https://www.quora.com. N.p. , 26 Aug. 2015. Web. 23 Apr. 2016. .     Volkogonov, Dimitri. Lenin, Life and Legacy. Russia: 1994. Print.    

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“For Lenin the Revolution was everything, the people of Russia nothing “ How far do you agree?



For Lenin the Revolution was everything, the people of Russia nothing. The only problem with this statement is that we can’t agree if some events supported this claim or were against it. Although looking and analyzing the same events, some historians or people will come to the conclusion that Lenin’s only goal was to make and further the revolution he wanted. Other historians or people however might look at the exact same event and argue that it was evidence that he cared more for the people of Russia, or that the actions were necessary to ensure their survival. That being said, this essay will analyze specific events that Lenin had a significant role in such as the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, policies such as War Communism, as well as the New Economic Policy put in place following War Communism.



On the first of January 1918 the party’s central committee came to the conclusion that instead of supporting Lenin’s idea of accepting the peace treaty at this point in time, they would stall the signing of the treaty. This only served to make matters worse, as the Germans advanced further into Russian territory and offered a more severe version of the treaty. In the end they demanded much out of Russia. It was to give up 1.3 million sq. miles of territory that included Poland, Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, the Ukraine, and parts of Belorussia as well as Transcaucasia that included a population of 62 million people. Russia also lost 60% of her coal and iron resources. On February 23rd 1918 in a speech to the Bolshevik party congress to urge the party to accept the treaty, Lenin stated: “Their knees are on our chest, and our position is hopeless.  This peace must be accepted as a respite enabling us to prepare a decisive resistance to the bourgeoisie and imperialists.” Here Lenin is saying that the only option Russia has at this point in time is to accept the treaty at whatever cost so they can live to fight another day. Specifically, it meant that Russia since Russia didn’t have to focus on a war with Germany anymore, they could focus on internal problems first. Lenin’s reaction here can be interpreted in two ways. Firstly he himself knew and firmly believed that Russia at any cost needed to give up what was demanded in the treaty in order to ensure Russia could come back to fight another day. However it can also be interpreted to support the claim that the people of Russia were nothing to him, as he would rather unconditionally sign the treaty instead of trying to be vocal for a less harsh treaty.



 War communism was one of the policies that arguably can be seen as supporting the statement that the revolution really was everything for him and the people nothing. In order to ensure their success in the Civil War against the Whites from 1918-1921, War communism was introduced. To the workers and peasants of Russia, these rules only served to make their lives and living conditions worse. On the 28th of June 1918 a bill was passed that ended all forms of private capitalism. Many if not all-large factories were taken over by the state to produce any necessities they required. Factory workers were put under military styled discipline with strikers being shot. Furthermore, workers were no longer paid but only given ration cards. Additionally in more vital industrial areas the government introduced forced labor. For peasants, any surplus food had to be given to the government. Any food that was sold to Bolsheviks had to be done at fixed prices only.

Although War Communism helped served its purpose in aiding to win the Civil War against the Whites, in the end it was detrimental to not only the economy of Russia, but also to the wellbeing of the people. War Communism, which was a result of the Civil War, only served to further the food problem within Russia. Peasants were forced to give up supplies for little to nothing in return, which decreased their overall production. Some within the peasantry would withhold giving the government their surplus supplies in order to ensure their own survival. As a result in 1920 Lenin increased demand from the peasantry. At the conclusion of the Civil War, the affects on the population could be clearly seen. Grain production at the end of the Civil War in 1921 was at 37.6 million tons, less than half of what it had been in 1913. However, nearly a century later how can we confidently say that if Lenin and the Bolsheviks had not taken these harsh actions under the War Communism decree, that they would have won the civil war?



Especially the War Communism decree, it can be interpreted as evidence that he did care for the people of Russia. Nearly every nation in an existential crisis will implement policies that sacrifice some if not all of the liberties of the people in order to ensure success within a civil or national war. One specific example can be seen with the United States during World War 2 where they were effectively under “total war” conditions. This meant that the people just like the people during the Russian Civil War, were expected to meet certain demands of the Government. As an example, although women and children were not forced into labour in the literal sense as those during the Russian Civil War, it became an expectation as their was a shortage of men able to work in factories. Another example can be seen with conscription. Males who were of age were forced to undergo training as well as be ready to fight on the front lines. Those who resisted such as Elijah Muhammad who was one of the people most vocal against the draft were jailed. If one supports the idea that the total war as well as conscription policies held by the allied powers during world war 2 were necessary and in the end served in the interest of the people, then they would have to support that war communism in the end would benefit the people.

It must also be noted that at the conclusion of the Russian Civil War, Lenin and the Bolsheviks nullified their war communism decree and introduced the New Economic Policy that had four major points: New Small Businesses where small factories were handed back to their owners. Nationalism, that allowed freedom to national and Muslim cultures. Experts, where the Bolsheviks brought in experts on high wages to increase production. The New Economic Policy introduced helped bring prosperity back to the economy of Russia as production levels were finally able to pass that of 1914 by 1928. It also gave more freedom and opportunities to the people of Russia as they were able to operate their own businesses, as well as learn their own language as two examples. The New Economic Policy overall gave both new and old rights back to the Russian population.



            In conclusion, the events that transpired as a result or with the aid of Lenin that were analysed in this essay can be interpreted both ways. However in regards to what extent do I agree with the said statement that the revolution was everything and the people nothing for Lenin, it is hard to come to a proper conclusion especially when compared to events today. Western Nations find it difficult to avoid civilian casualties in their bombings against Isis, yet it is deemed as collateral damage in order to reach their end goal. For Lenin, he was faced with a war against a militarily superior Germany and deduced that the best option even if it were to cause suffering would be to sign the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Following this he was faced with a Civil War and took the steps under War Communism to ensure victory over their opponents. Although it was harsh on the peasants and workers of Russia, we can’t say for certain that if he didn’t take the actions he did then Russia and its people would be in a better position. 


"For Lenin the revolution was everything, people nothing." How far do you agree?


Robert Service stresses that Lenin did not care about, or value human life, which he stresses in his book ‘A History of Modern Russia from Nicholas II to Vladimir Putin’ by claiming that “Lenin, Trotsky and Dzerzhinsky believed that over-killing was better than running the risk of being overthrown”. Service argues that Lenin and the other members of the Bolshevik party would rather ruthlessly murder innocent civilians, than risk the downfall of the Bolshevik party and the failure of his revolution. This argument is further exemplified by the creation of the Cheka, the terror inspiring organization, an organization, which was responsible for the killings of 10,000-15,000 people between September and October 1918 alone, under the explicit instructions from Lenin himself to “prepare for terror”.[1] A man who sanctions the death of thousands of people without trial clearly harbours a disregard for human life and values the communist revolution in Russia above everything. This argument supported by Richard Pipes who describes Lenin’s methods as “merciless violence, violence that strove for the destruction of every actual and potential opponent…” [2] and believed that the way that the Bolsheviks utilized terror as a principle instrument of political persuasion was barbaric and believed this clearly demonstrated Lenin’s contempt and disdain for Peasants. Lenin, a man who valued his ideological movement over the lives of hundreds of thousands of people (the resultant aftermath of the red terror)[3], clearly cares only about the revolution, and not the people, and would sacrifice anything, to see the social order established.

However Lenin stresses throughout his campaign for revolution his desire to help the workers and instigate social change in Russia. Lenin justifies the necessity of the red terror by claiming that "[The bourgeoisie] practised terror against the workers, soldiers and peasants in the interests of a small group of landowners and bankers, whereas the Soviet regime applies decisive measures against landowners, plunderers and their accomplices in the interests of the workers, soldiers and peasants."[4] Lenin argues that the red terror was imperative for their to be any change in social order. He continues to stress that the people killed in the red terrors where not peasants, but “Kulaks”, who he claimed abused the system and prevented social revolution. AJP Taylor supports Lenin by claiming “Lenin was not only a great man, but also quite possibly a good man”. Taylor disputes many claims that Lenin was an evil dictator, even to the extent of arguing that Lenin was a kind and generous man. Lenin’s compassion for the people is also evident in his slogans and social aims. In Lenin’s April thesis he emphasizes the vital, and immediate need of the people, mainly “Peace, Bread and Land[5]”. From Lenin’s political campaigns it is evident that Lenin values the wellbeing of the people and is only trying to provide for them. This suggests that Lenin always acknowledged and assessed the wellbeing of the people as his primary goal.

The reality is that Lenin was a pragmatist. As stated by Dimitry Volkogonov “Lenin believed everything is moral that facilitates the victory of Communism…”[6] which suggests that the revolution was everything to Lenin, however it is also evident that Lenin often tries to preserve human life, even if it results in a loss of political power and a hindrance to the spread of communist ideals. Lenin saw how the death of a few could prevent further deaths, and help Russia develop as a communist state. People, as individuals often did seem insignificant to Lenin, which is what makes it of paramount importance that it is remembered that what Lenin strove for the Proletariat, for the masses, and that all his actions where done with the intention of aiding the majority. Lenin was a practical leader who understood the sacrifices that had to be made to instigate significant social revolution. Lenin say that the loss of Russian lives was too costly in the war with Germany, so conceded to an unconditional surrender to Germany to preserve Russian lives, regardless of the cost.[7] Lenin was capable of overlooking the loss of a few lives, to improve the lives of many.  

To conclude, to Lenin, the life of an individual is nothing, is meaningless. This is clearly exemplified by his inclination to instigate the deaths of hundreds of thousands during the red terror to protect the communist party in Russia from overthrow, as argued by Robert Service. Other historians, such as AJP Taylor take a contrasting stance, even to the extent of calling Lenin “a good man”. In reality Lenin probably didn’t resemble either of these extremes, but was merely a pragmatist, who had on unorthodox approach to the regard of the sanctity of life. Volkogonov argues this by saying, “Lenin believed everything is moral that facilitates the victory of Communism…” which suggests that Lenin does believe it viable and justifiable to sacrifice human life for social development. Volkogonov furthermore stresses that Lenin believed most of the deaths instigated by the Bolsheviks and where Kulaks, who controlled the means of production, and therefore were preventing the spread of communist ideology. Lenin did not value the life of on individual, however did value the lives of the population, and therefore to him, the people were definitely not nothing.

                                                                                                      

Footnotes:  [1] Trueman, C. N. "The Red Terror." History Learning Site. - History Learning Site, 22 May 2015. Web. 24 April 2016.  [2] "Historian: Richard Pipes." Russian Revolution. Alpha History, 07 Dec. 2012. Web. 25 April 2016.  [3] Simkin, John. "Spartacus Educational." Spartacus Educational. N.p., May 2013. Web. 24 April 2016.  [4] Volkogonov, D. A., and Harold Shukman. Introduction. Lenin: Life and Legacy. London: HarperCollins, 1994. 182-83. Print.  [5] "Lenin and the Bolshevik Revolution." IGSCE History. BBC, Feb. 2015. Web. 25 Apr. 2016.  [6] Volkogonov, D. A., and Harold Shukman. Introduction. Lenin: Life and Legacy. London: HarperCollins, 1994. 182-83. Print.  [7] The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. "Treaties of Brest-Litovsk." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 26 April 2016. 

 May 2017 

Q24: Evaluate the role of terror and coercion in the consolidation of the Soviet State between 1917-1924
One of the main concerns I have with this question is that the focus on use of force by the Soviet Regime becomes dominant among most western historians. While of course the fact of the “Red Terror” cannot be denied, its role in the consolidation of the Soviet State tends to be examined independently of other events which took place in Russia and the circumstances under which the terror took place. This is coherent with A.J.P. Taylor’s considerably abstract evaluation of Lenin claiming that “Lenin did more than any other political figure to change the face of the twentieth century world...He was a very great man, and despite his flaws, a very good man.” However this interpretation of Lenin is deemed by many to be at least controversial, particularly by Richard Pipes who underscores Lenin’s disregard for human life. Thus this essay is going to argue that despite Lenin’s heavy criticism of the idea of the state, arguing that any government’s only two sources of power are “standing army and the police” he himself ended up constructing a repressive system in which terror was his intrument of projecting power.
By 1918 Lenin has created the government where the role of terror and coersion in the consolidation of power was simply crucial. As argued by the foremost American historian on the Russian Revolution and the Soviet Union, Lenin's methods presented “ merciless violence, violence that strove for the destruction of every actual and potential opponent, was... the only way of dealing with problems.” Even though it might come off as an emotional statement, especially coming from an American historian with Polish origins, it is not far from reality. As it was seen with the assasination of the Tsar family in July 1918, a move which shocked many. However only two months later Lenin’s famous “hanging order” took place, he ordered to find 100 dissident peasants or kulaks and hang them for a public statement. Through the scope of these two events it is clear that Lenin’s disregard for human life as well as the role of fear in the suppression of public disapproval. This peaked however by 1921 with the rebellion of the Kronstadt sailors which was brutally suppressed by the Red Army. Kronstadt Sailors: the very force which led Lenin to the victory over Kazan in the early days of the Civil War was then destroyed and more than 2 thousand members of this rebellion were executed. This comes to show that Lenin’s regime was firmly reliant not on negotiations or diplomacy, but force, fear and terror. Once again as objectively argued by Richard Pipes, despite the clear anti-Soviet rhetorics in most of his works, Lenin held on to his power specifically through the use of terror, therefore its role in the consolidation of the Soviet State is defining.
On the other hand Lenin’s foreign policy indeed, as was outlined by A.J.P. Taylor himself, did a lot to “change the face of the twentieth century world” and in this regard
 his achievements in diplomacy and their effect on Russia cannot be ignored. The most crucial act of foreign policy ever carried out by Lenin is without any doubts the “Brest-Litovsk Treaty” of 1918 which has put an end to the First World War for Russia at the cost of losing 1⁄3 of all Russian land west of the Ural mountains. By 1917 already 2,3 million men were lost by Russia. As the foremost Bulgarian First World War historian Stoilov argues herself “By 1918 the manpower and resources of the Russian Empire were far from being depleted.” The War could have gone on costing more and more human lives if not for Lenin’s Brest-Litovsk Treaty. Considering the loss of lands in Finland, Baltics, Poland and especially Ukraine which has always been called “The breadbasket of Europe” Brest-Litovsk Treaty can arguably be considered one of the most pacifistic and humane acts in human history. However there are conspiracy theories which argue against Taylor’s view of Lenin’s motivation such as Lenin being a “German Agent”, but they lack any clear grounding unlike the explanation provided by ideas openly expressed by Lenin himself in his April Theses where he calls for the end of the “Capitalist War”. On top of that his “New Economic Policy” of 1922 presented a transition from a planned economy of “War Communism” in which forced collectivization led to famine in which around 5 million people died, whilst NEP introduced the Soviet State to the “free market and capitalism both subject to state control” which in other words was a shift towards capitalism as well as broadening civil freedoms of the regular Soviet citizens. Thus Lenin’s diplomatic achievements and economic reforms indicate that terror and coersion were by far not the most important components in shaping the Soviet State.
In conclusion, despite Taylor’s argument in favor of Lenin’s peaceful ambitions so evident in his Brest-Litovsk Treaty his cynical orders simply cannot be ignored. It is clear that the role of terror in Lenin’s consolidation of power was crucial and at times cruel and unjustified.