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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Lenin: Portrait of a new type of leader

An interesting and powerful portrait of Lenin's personality from the Soviet journal Kommunist in 1984.

Everyone who was in close contact with Lenin, even for only a short while. remembered him as a man of exceptional spiritual beauty. This is shown by the many thousands of recollections by his contemporaries. Academician M J . Averbach, one of the specialists who treated Lenin, recalled, in his declining years, the difficulty he had had as a schoolboy in writing an essay on the abstract theme of ’'Who we consider a really good person". He said that if he had been given such an essay to write later in life, it would have presented no difficulty whatsoever for him, for he would simply have described the life of Lenin and outlined his intellectual and moral qualities.


Lenin’s contemporaries characterized him down to a T: genius and wisdom combined with unpretentiousness and modesty. Those who did not know the leader of the revolution personally, this man who showed our great country which path to take, who made the whole world listen to him, pictured him as a kind of mythological hero. On meeting Lenin face to face they were at first perplexed and amazed, for the Lenin they had imagined was nothing like the real man, friendly and highly accessible, whose appearance, habits and manners did not smack of the superhuman. Other casual observers went to the opposite extreme, maintaining that there was absolutely nothing which distinguished Lenin from the average Russian. In point of fact, Lenin was perfectly aware of his historical calling and of his great responsibility.

He was very much the product of the working class of Russia which helped him fully reveal his genius while the October Revolution raised him to great heights. Nadezhda Krupskaya (Nadezhda Krupskaya (1869-1939), a leading figure in the Communist party ’and the Soviet state, the wife and comrade-in-arms or V. I. Lenin) - believed that Lenin would not have been the man he was had he lived in an age other than that of the proletarian revolutions and socialist construction.

There is nothing mystical in saying that it was the working class that formed the moral make-up of Lenin, to whom airs and graces and affectation were alien. The proletarian movement which he embodied excludes ostentation and feigned theatricality.

Lenin embodied revolutionary humanism in all its profundity and the nobleness of the Party’s aims. Lenin was the highest synthesis of political morality and personal ethics. His character is best understood in the context of the political struggle, i.e., in the main channel of his activities in which he revealed himself most fully. No one ever heard Lenin spout forth eloquent words about his love for the people, but everyone knew of it and felt it. He sincerely sympathized with the underprivileged and suffering masses. This was not passive compassion but the active sympathy of a proletarian revolutionary who saw the masses as the masters of their own destiny and who stirred them up to join in the struggle Moreover, he did not regard them as a faceless crowd, he saw them as individuals. His contemporaries testify how great was the circle of people for whom he did very much, mostly through others, while remaining on the sidelines himself. He showed his concern for people so tactfully that they only got to know by chance after many years just how much they were personally indebted to him.


Lenin was a new type of leader, being closely linked with those involved in the common cause. There was always an atmosphere of ease and party equality around him. He showed an interest in everyone. found something of worth in everybody, addressed people as his equals, without the slightest hint of superiority or trace of condescension or affectation. Those who came to see Lenin were extremely nervous at the thought of meeting him but felt at ease as soon as they crossed the threshold of his room their embarrassment and constraint vanished in the twinkling of an eye, the speech. which they had taken great pains to prepare beforehand turned out to be unnecessary in the presence of this unpretentious man. All who met Lenin expressed their admiration of his art of listening to others; they were amazed at the fact that Lenin, the leader of a vast country which was faced with such formidable tasks, listened to his interlocutor calmly and patiently as if he had no other concerns whatever, showing no signs of the impatience one might expect of an extremely busy person. either in his words or tone of voice.

With all his unpretentiousness and accessibility, Lenin never stooped to familiarity. Although he addressed those around him in a comradely and informal manner all were well aware that no matter how straightforward a man he might be, he had to be told nothing but the truth, presented with facts that had been verified, that he would not tolerate empty phrases.

For Lenin, conversation was one of the main means of understanding life and people. His ability for listening to others derived from his organically inherent habit of observing the standards of collective work. He only took a decision once he was convinced that it was not just his personal opinion. but that of all his comrades as well. Those around him did not even suspect how many of their collective concerns or how much of their experience occupied their leader’s mind and influenced his decisions.


Lenin was a teacher in the full sense of the word for those who were in close contact with him, and this very contact played an educative role. When Lenin was present there was a special, electric atmosphere which he created without any visible effort on his part, without any moralizing. His presence forced one to exert one's self spiritually, one's mind grew more alert, one was filled with the desire to know, think, read, study and, most important, to work and work. Flattery, servility and intrigue were inconceivable in Lenin’s presence. Everything bore the imprint of great unity, efficiency and unselfishness. The personal example set by Lenin and his moral influence kept those around him from growing complacent and arrogant, from everything that might diminish their honour and dignity as party members. Lenin's timely warnings kept the Communists on the political lookout and imbued them with critical self-awareness.

These meetings and talks with Lenin were a lesson in the party approach to many issues. He was able to assess every fact which came to his attention in a new way, from party positions, give it the broadest political interpretation. He taught others not to be dogmatic, to seriously consider everything that was happening around them, to foresee the consequences of measures taken ’'One does not need to be a theoretician for this. It is enough to be a party member."

Lenin could be masterful when he had to be, would quash the least violation of party discipline, any boasting. He could not stand loafers and careerists. He could be demanding of others and therefore made endless demands on himself.

It is rightly held that there is nothing more difficult than to show the good side of one's nature when arguing with or criticizing others. Lenin relentlessly waged the ideological war, was a formidable polemist, and exploited every slip made by his political opponents. The very complexity of the matters in hand often gave rise to burning polemics, and Lenin would deliberately emphasize a problem in order to reveal its essence. to clearly see who held what position. However, no matter how harsh Lenin was with his opponents, he never allowed trifles to intrude upon the main struggle of opinions, never uttered one word that might be taken as a personal attack. He shattered his opponents’ arguments mercilessly, but in such a way that even a very sensitive person would not feel humiliated.

Lenin had a great quality - the ability to put aside his personal feelings, his sympathy or antipathy, everything extraneous and superficial when he engaged in political discussions or took political actions. This was political honesty in the true, profound sense of the word. Lenin's relations with people, his closeness to them, were determined by his concern for the revolutionary cause. His personal attachments did not affect his political position.

The secret of Lenin’s charm and his great authority lay in the fact that he was always himself, were it on the rostrum or at home, in public or in the family circle. His public and private life were an integral whole, solidly merged into one. This is why recalling Lenin, his contemporaries could venture to speak of his private life, to which schisms, internal contradictions and compromise were alien. He had a passionate love for life in all its complexity and diversity, could not drink his fill of it and was able to snatch happiness from life, his main joy being struggle and desire for victory.



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