Lenin: "It is doubtful if in all history any man's hand left as deep a mark upon the world."
Editorial from The Liberator Magazine in honour of Lenin's death January 21, 1924
V. I. Lenin makes a speech at the funeral of Sverdlov. Moscow, March 1919.
VLADIMIR Ilyich Ulyanov is dead. With him expired the mind that had more than any other to do with the shaping of this century. It is doubtful if in all history any man's hand left as deep a mark upon the world. The nations for centuries to come will flow into forms first sketched by him.
Wielding through sheer mental force a power greater than that of any other living person, this man had a personal modesty almost incredible. His conversation revealed an impersonal attitude, a lack of interest in himself that was disconcerting. On the wages of a mechanic he lived in two rooms and always was seen in the cheap clothing and cap of a workingman.
But politically, no false modesty but an amazing audacity was the chief characteristic of Lenin. When kings, emperors, presidents, parliaments and world financiers declared a war between the nations, the obscure political party of workers led by Lenin did not hesitate to amend the declaration to read:
"Conversion of the imperialistic war into a civil war of the oppressed against the oppressors and for socialism."
The amendment stands. Not national wars, but revolutions, are the deciding characteristics of the century.
When capitalism's greatest men declared the formation of an "international" of capitalist governments—the League of Nations—which would thenceforth settle the affairs of all men, Lenin amended this to read:
"The formation of a revolutionary International of the working class of all nations against their governments."
And today the Communist International is stronger than the League of Nations.
It would be absurd to say that Lenin made the Russian revolution, or to say that he did not. He was its brain, formed within it, inevitable to it and indispensable to it. Lenin was a necessary phenomenon among the phenomena of the revolution. In September, 1918, when it was thought that he would die of the bullet-wound inflicted by a "socialist-revolutionist," there was a substantial fear that without his leadership the revolution would fall over the precipice on the brink of which it then balanced. This was a view held mostly by outsiders, by the camp-followers of the revolution, in whose minds all social phenomena are the personal acts of great men. Among communists at the time it was said that Lenin's death at an earlier period might have been fatal to the revolution, but that the revolution had already outgrown the indispensability of any one, even its greatest leader. Lenin lived five years longer and guided the revolution through several dangerous crises, notably the wars of defense against invasions, and the economic impasse out of which Russia retreated with the daring measure of the "New Economic Policy," then to turn and recommence the socialist advance. Lenin led the Revolution beyond the point of dependence upon Lenin.
During the gradual decline of his health, his function has been shifted to others who were his lifetime co-workers and pupils. It is these who have been leading for a considerable time. Strong men they are. Under their leadership, since the retirement of Lenin, Soviet Russia and the world revolutionary movement have made giant strides. The Revolution has created its new leadership, even as it fashioned the magnificent instrument of the rebel schoolboy from Simbirsk. But now, where one was made before, thousands are generated in the Communist International. That was Lenin's work. Lenin conceived thousands of his kind. The breed is inextinguishable.
The Revolution will go ahead without him. But those of us who have known him, spoken with him and felt the strength of that all-overpowering will, must feel for a brief instant that the world is a grave when Lenin is dead. Only for an instant, and then we are pulled together with hearing again his cry:
"Long live the Revolution! Long live the Communist International!"
- Editorial on the death of Lenin, The Liberator Magazine, February 1924.
Lenin died January 21, 1924.