“A lie repeated often enough becomes the truth.”
Vladimir Lenin’s words still resonate 100 years after the start of the Russian Revolution in 1917. Belief in communism (socialism) was the lie first perpetrated by Karl Marx in the 19th century, culminating in the Bolshevik Revolution, from St Petersburg, Russia. Karl Marx’s theory would alter world history and cause a ripple effect extending to the present day.
Marx’s theory was based on absolute certainty. He predicted that the bourgeoisie (the capitalists) would overthrow the aristocracy. The proletariat (the oppressed workers), in turn, would overthrow the bourgeoisie.
The “dictatorship of the proletariat” would immediately follow. Marx and Lenin believed that the working people were too ignorant and uneducated to rule a nation. They needed to evolve into a higher state. In the meantime, they needed to be educated and trained by their leaders. Eventually, “this dictatorship of the proletariat” would wither away into a utopia where there would be neither government nor social class.
Marx’s prophecy seemed to be unfolding in Russia in 1917 exactly as he predicted. On March 15, 1917, Tsar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate the throne of Russia. This was due to his mismanagement and mismanagement of both his government and the war against the Germans (World War I).
The Duma (the Russian Parliament) was left in charge of the country. They wanted to continue the fight against the Germans, which was then in its fourth year. People were angry, war-weary, disillusioned with their government, and hungry.
Lenin, who had lived in exile in Switzerland during the war, saw conditions in Russia as an opportunity to seize power. He went to the German embassy in Switzerland and made them a bold proposal. Allow Lenin and his fellow Marxist Bolsheviks to return to St. Petersburg and he would overthrow the Duma, seize power and pull Russia out of the war. This would end the two-front war and stalemate the Germans had been fighting in since the war began in August 1914.
The Germans, feeling that they had little to lose and much to gain, accepted Lenin’s plan. He and his 100 followers arrived in a sealed train in Saint Petersburg on April 16, 1917. Lenin promised the people “peace, land and bread” – an end to the war, land to the peasants and bread for their hungry bellies.
In a relatively bloodless coup, he seized power as absolute dictator and immediately pulled Russia out of the war. Marx’s prophecy seemed to have been fulfilled with remarkable precision.
The Soviet Union (the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) formed from these Bolshevik revolutionary roots was to endure until it collapsed under its own weight in January 1991. The “dictatorship of the proletariat” did not wither away. as Marx had predicted, but become stronger. Bourgeois capitalism won this epic battle that lasted almost 74 years.
In the end, Marx’s prophecy turned out to be a lie and an illusion.
There are several lessons to be learned from this epic time in history for us today:
1. Theories based on absolute certainty must be deeply suspicious, whether communist or capitalist, progressive or conservative.
2. Just because bourgeois capitalism has won its battle against Marxist socialism does not mean that capitalism has all the answers. The fallacy of absolute certainty applies as much to capitalism as to Marxist-Leninist doctrine.
3. Nothing that lasts 74 years is entirely wrong. Marx and Lenin understood that government has an obligation to take care of its citizens – all of them, not just the wealthy and the elite. Lenin used this understanding to seize power in Russia and overthrow democracy. It happened in Russia. It could also happen here.
America’s wealthy elites must be smart enough to avoid Tsar Nicholas’ mistake of not caring about their country’s poor and needy. The stupidity of the government does not reside only in the Soviet Union. He can and does reside with our government in Washington, D.C.
Lenin was wrong: “A lie repeated often enough becomes the truth”, but only in people’s perception, not in reality.