Actions are generally the result of thoughts, both good and bad. As we think so we act. Carlyle once said, “God help the world when he lets loose a bad thinker.” In the case of Vladimir Lenin we have a man of many noble and positive qualities who learned how to channel his good qualities into a revolution that he followed in Russia because of a very bad thinker, Karl Marx (photo left).
It is generally believed, in modern liberal society, that ideas do not have serious consequences. What matters is how we act not what we think. But just a little knowledge of history will dispossess you of this idea rather quickly. Ideas often have immense consequences. The idea is first; the deed follows. The famous American Catholic Bishop Fulton J. Sheen wrote (1957): “Ideas do not long remain within the two covers of a textbook, nor within the four walls of a classroom; they are planted as seeds and later on grow as either cockle or wheat.”
Vladimir Lenin may have brutally killed as many people as any dictator in the 20th century. He was one of the worst of all men in history. But he was neither creative nor original. His most unique ability was to take the ideology of Karl Marx and turn it into a revolution. And Marx’s ideas were an absolute dogmatic faith system. Bishop Sheen rightly said, “The idea of Marx came first, then the Revolution of Lenin. As in Christianity, ‘In the beginning was the Word and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,’ so in Communism: ‘In the beginning was Marx and Marx became Lenin and the revolution dwelt among us.’”
Vladimir Lenin could be a very decent and kind man. On a social character scale one would like him as a neighbor. He was intelligent, kind to his wife and generally well regarded. But he was politically cruel. Why? The ideology of Karl Marx. This is much like what we hear when a wife says of her murderous husband, “But at home he was such a kind man and a good husband. I do not believe he did this crime.”
The truly bad idea that Lenin took from Marx was the false principle that evil is social, not personal. All the injuries and wickedness in a society are the result of economic methods used against the people. Evil, argued Marx, resided in class, not in conscience. And the two basic classes who cause evil are property owners and people of deep religious faith. Property alienates a person from himself by making him a slave of an exploiter; religion alienates a man from himself by making a slave of something that does not exist (God); hence religion is the “opiate of the people.”
The solution, according to Marx, was to get rid of all private property.
The second principle Vladimir Lenin learned from Karl Marx was that persons, or individuals, of and by themselves, are worthless. This is a radical form of evolution wrapped in the idea that the strongest species must survive. But biblically each person matters. The danger of radical individualism, which I often speak against on this blog, is not what I have in mind here. What Marx opposed was personal freedom; the right of private ownership, the freedom to pursue your dreams, etc. For Marx the person has no value except as part of a class. The herd is what matters, the revolutionary class. Marx believed the Christian idea of the intrinsic worth of the human person, rooted in the doctrine of an immortal soul, was nothing more than silly dogma.
The great cruelty of Lenin was thus ideological. It was his dogma; dogma rooted in the metaphysical. Whatever the character of the man in private, or otherwise, the principle that he embraced made him act in immoral and evil ways. Lenin may have been a pleasant enough fellow to his friends and family but his actions were some of the most evil in the last century.
In 1905 Lenin said, “A revolutionary army is needed because great historical questions can be solved only by violence and the organization of violence in a modern struggle is a military organization.” He believed a small minority could govern any majority if they possessed three things: (1) An army; (2) The police; (3) A myth or an official legend that controls the press and the means of communication.
Bishop Sheen contrasts Lenin’s choice of ideology, rooted in class hatred, with that of St. Francis. Francis was a “revolutionary” who loved the poor but he loved them in Christian charity. Lenin cared about the poor, but only as a reaction to his intense ideological hatred for those classes of people that he saw as standing in opposition to his ideology of revolution. What a huge difference ideology makes!