Lenin’s Last Testament: the prophetic last words of a Marxist for our times

by JOHN WESTMORELAND

Lev (Leon) Trotsky and Vladimir Lenin, Moscow (L-R), 1919. MAGE/TASS – Wikicommons /cropped from original/shared from public domain

The myth that Lenin led to Stalin is exposed by Lenin’s Last Testament which argues for more democracy and removing Stalin from power, writes John Westmoreland

‘Revolution’ is a word on the lips of millions. The reason is obvious. Justice for Palestine, ending the imperialist war in the Middle East, and getting climate justice are all revolutionary demands in themselves. But when we put them together, they are demands that threaten the entire capitalist system and the bankers, oil giants, and corporations that dominate our lives.  

That history has set us huge tasks, and their solutions require transformative politics, is widely accepted despite a frenzy of propaganda to the contrary. The capitalist parties are trapped. The ghastly reality of late capitalism is educating millions that are imbued with humanitarian solutions to the crisis. Red lights are flashing, while stifling and deflecting the demands for change occupies the minds of media moguls, spin doctors, and a variety of populist bullshitters.

Revolutionary politics is now at a premium, and there is a rich history of Marxist theory that can be brought to bear to convince the many that they have the collective power to bring about the transformation we need. The ruling class has made a monumental effort to bury the real history of mass revolutionary politics. Marxists as a whole, and those who led real mass movements in particular, have been denigrated and trivialised.

Since 1917 and the first successful workers’ revolution in Russia, a landslide of propaganda, much of it generated by academia, has attempted to bury or distort the liberating impact of that important chapter in our history. The Russian revolution, which gave the working class their democratic state, ended the First World War and lifted millions of the oppressed – women, Jews, national and religious minorities – to political equality, was a world historic victory that shook capitalism to its core.

The idea that the working class might gain more through their organisation and intelligence than waiting for reform from above terrifies the capitalists. So, the story of the revolution is told as a simplistic fairy tale involving fanatical revolutionary leaders, a gullible proletariat, and a misunderstood liberal political class.

Particular venom has been heaped on Lenin. He was a man who never wore a uniform, or held individual political power, and whose entire life’s work was dedicated to ending class rule and oppression, yet he has been portrayed as a ruthless manipulator, responsible for setting in train the dictatorship that came about under Stalin. 

That ‘Lenin led to Stalin’ is not even given the status of a historical controversy in schools and colleges. It is accepted as fact. Academic historians, where Lenin is concerned, ignore their own advice to students – to check historical analysis against the facts offered by primary sources, especially if they were written by the people involved in the controversy itself.

This brings us onto a document known as Lenin’s Testament. The Testament was dictated by Lenin as he lay dying in Gorky. Nobody has ever seriously criticised the Testament as a forgery and as primary sources go it is pretty much bulletproof. It says what Lenin meant very clearly. The problem with it is that it destroys, in a few short sentences, the myth that ‘Lenin led to Stalin’.

Leading to the last

Lenin’s illness and untimely death at fifty-three was brought about because of his selfless work rate. He never stopped worrying about the revolution in which he had played a leading part. The documents referred to below were dictated after he had suffered several strokes and had been forced to retire to a sanatorium.

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