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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Lenin: A Worker of Miracles - Moissaye J. Olgin

V. I. Lenin makes a speech at the funeral of Sverdlov. Moscow, March 1919


Surrounded by the ancient walls of the Kremlin, where the rotten splendor of the Czar's Court fed on the "black bone" of the peasant, where, later, the valiant Red battalions fought to sweep that old Russia off the face of the earth, Lenin lies under a modest wooden mausoleum, as simple as a peasant's hut. Three years have passed since he died, (January 22, 1924), and the man who was already a legend while he was living, is now offered the almost religious faith of the masses. From frost bitten Siberia, from balmy Crimea, from the vast plains of the Volga,—from Russian and Ukrainian and Tartar and Jew, adoring hearts reach out to Lenin. The artless figure of him, who was so unaffected and homely in life, has become gigantic and overwhelming in the consciousness of the masses. Out of the pain and hope and yearnings and pent-up fighting energy of the masses, the Lenin legend is growing; he is the hero-saint of proletarian revolt, the miraculous leader of peasant upheaval, the avenging knight-errant of capitalists' expropriation and land confiscation, the bringer of justice to the oppressed—a saint more real and revered than any in the history of the world.


Historian and artist stand aghast before this living wonder. What is it that made Lenin—Lenin? We concede his unmatched clarity of vision which revealed to him the path the Russian Revolution would go even before the forces that made it possible had ripened. We concede his genius for organization, whereby he outlined the method of building a proletarian party twenty years before it was successfully accomplished. We concede his intellectual intrepidity which moved him, one month after the outbreak of the world war, to declare all war socialists, (practically nine-tenths of the official social-democratic leadership) traitors to the cause of socialism, to declare the Second International dead and to demand the building up of a new, proletarian, class-conscious International. It was an uncanny understanding of the spirit of the people and an unbounded belief in the creative power of the proletariat which made him lead the masses to seizure of state power in face of the opposition of all the other socialist parties, in face of the resistance of even some of his closest communist associates? We must acknowledge his uncanny shrewdness, his ability to find the proper solution for the most tangled problems, his knack of reducing the most momentous socio-political tasks to the simplest terms, his readiness to acknowledge error, his ruthlessness in suppressing opposition, his eagerness to forgive when danger was over.


All these are attributes of Lenin, but separately or together they do not wholly explain him. He stands for more than sociology or economics or political leadership or "dictatorship of the proletariat" or "distribution of the land among the peasants." He is above all a person, a radiant, magnetic individual, deep and unassuming, powerful and simple, militant and friendly, abstract and singularly humane, imposing, imponderable as fate, yet utterly self-oblivious, towering above all, yet equal to all, making history but avoiding the limelight, gripping a continent in an iron paw and smiling with the innocence of a child.


What to tilers was a matter of learning, with Lenin was instinct. What others only "figured out," Lenin knew. Where others were aloof, Lenin always, even in utter seclusion, was astir with the feelings of the masses. Lenin was the worker-peasant equipped with modern knowledge. Lenin was the worker-peasant projected into the future.


A worker of miracles, if there ever was one in this world. -- Moissaye J. Olgin, from the February 1927 issue of the New Masses


Olgin (1878–1939) was a Jewish Ukrainian-born writer, journalist, revolutionary and translator. His career began with writing for the Jewish press in support of the Russian Revolution in 19101. Born as Moissaye Joseph Novominsky on March 24, 1878, in the village of Buki, Kyiv Governorate his father, Chaim Aaron Novominsky, worked as a lumber camp employee. Olgin received a traditional education in Hebrew and later studied at the University of Kyiv.


His writings for Jewish and revolutionary publications gained him recognition among Russian Jews who were oppressed by the government of Tsar Nicholas II. He actively participated in the underground revolutionary movement and was part of a Jewish revolutionary student group called “Freiheit” (Freedom). In 1907, he continued his studies at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. During World War I, he couldn’t return to Russia due to the war and instead went to the United States in 1915.


Olgin was a founding member of the US Workers Party (precursor to the Communist Party) and he ran for office for the Workers Party and later the CPUSA multiple times. He founded the Morgen Freiheit a daily Yiddish language newspaper affiliated with the CPUSA. He also wrote for the Daily Worker, New Masses and was an American correspondent for Pravda.


He died in 1939.

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