Lenin orders the massacre of sex workers, 1918

Kaganovich, 1934

Lenin's letter to G. F. Fyodorov ordering "mass terror, shoot and deport the hundreds of prostitutes who are making drunkards of the soldiers, former officers and the like." in Nizhni, where the Czech white forces were amassing. Kaganovich implemented the terror although while there is some evidence of a sex industry operating in Nizhni (see comments) actual executions during the terror are estimated to be in the low hundreds and predominately men.

August 9, 1918

Comrade Fyodorov,

It is obvious that a whiteguard insurrection is being prepared in Nizhni. You must strain every effort, appoint three men with dictatorial powers (yourself, Markin and one other), organise immediately mass terror, shoot and deport the hundreds of prostitutes who are making drunkards of the soldiers, former officers and the like.

Not a minute of delay.

I can’t understand how Romanov could leave at a time like this!

I do not know the bearer. His name is Alexei Nikolayevich Bobrov. He says he worked in Vyborgskaya Storona District in Petrograd (from 1916).... Previously worked in Nizhni in 1905.

Judging by his credentials, he can be trusted. Check up on this and set him to work.

Peters, Chairman of the Extraordinary Commission, says that they also have reliable people in Nizhni.

You must act with all energy. Mass searches. Execution for concealing arms. Mass deportation of Mensheviks and unreliables. Change the guards at warehouses, put in reliable people.

They say Raskolnikov and Danishevsky are on their way to see you from Kazan.

Read this letter to the friends and reply by telegraph or telephone.

Yours,
Lenin

Reproduced from https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1918/aug/09gff.htm

Published: First published, but not in full, in 1938 in Bolshevik No. 2. Sent to Nizhni-Novgorod. Printed in full from a photo-copy of the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1976], Moscow, Volume 35, page 349.
Translated: Andrew Rothstein
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive. You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work, as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

Posted By

Mike Harman
Feb 9 2018 22:59

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  • You must strain every effort, appoint three men will) dictatorial powers (yourself, Markin and one other), organise immediately mass terror, shoot and deport the hundreds of prostitutes who are making drunkards of the soldiers, former officers and the like.

    Lenin, 1918

Attached files

Comments

Big No No
Feb 15 2018 06:02

Owning the Marxists by...being incredibly wrong about something

Serge Forward
Feb 15 2018 08:29
Big No No wrote:
Owning the Leninist apologists

Fixed that for you.

Big No No
Feb 15 2018 10:18
Serge Forward wrote:
Big No No wrote:
Owning the Leninist apologists by... being incredibly wrong about something

Fixed that for you.

Ah yes, much better

Battlescarred
Feb 15 2018 10:33


Exactly.

Craftwork
Feb 15 2018 12:23
Big No No wrote:
Owning the Marxists by...being incredibly wrong about something

Trotskyism is a form of leftism, not Marxism.

The profusion of Trotskyist sects in existence today is witness to the mass of contradictions which make up the elements of Trotskyism, and objectively these groupings represent the left wing of the bourgeoisie’s political apparatus. They stand, not for the emancipation of the proletariat, but for a state capitalist order in which they will be the new bosses. Objectively they function as the left wing of the social democratic or Stalinist parties, providing these parties with cover from attacks by revolutionary political positions and most importantly giving them credibility in the eyes of the working class. By sticking slavishly to the formula that the proletariat has only a crisis of leadership they fail to recognise the real conditions for the revival of the revolutionary party. These lie in the objective need to struggle of the mass of the proletariat and the party’s own programmatic clarity. Unable to perceive these basic conditions, the Trotskyists cannot escape from their historical cul-de-sac without retracing the road back to the revolutionary lessons of the proletariat has taken. In doing this they would, of course, cease to be Trotskyists since they would not only have to abandon their fundamental confusions but would also have to recognise the bourgeois, anti-revolutionary nature of Trotskyism itself.

http://www.leftcom.org/en/articles/2000-10-01/trotsky-and-the-internationalist-communist-left

Big No No
Feb 15 2018 13:06
Craftwork wrote:
Trotskyism is a form of leftism, not Marxism.

1. Horseshit
2. Irrelevant

Pennoid
Feb 15 2018 13:34

Mike,

I don't see the moral difference other than some virtuous spontaneity, in the Nat Turner rebellions murder of women and children. Ostensibly, the bolsheviks tight control of terror helped them reign in wonton violence; hold would-be pogromists accountable, and Target their efforts. Why is spontaneity assumed to be a virtue?

It reads as though Lenin's main crime wasn't (potentially) ordering the killing of civillians (the condition which you impose being spontaneity which merits sympathy) but being Lenin or a Bolshevik while doing it.

Mike Harman
Feb 15 2018 14:30
Pennoid wrote:
Mike,
I don't see the moral difference other than some virtuous spontaneity, in the Nat Turner rebellions murder of women and children. Ostensibly, the bolsheviks tight control of terror helped them reign in wonton violence; hold would-be pogromists accountable, and Target their efforts. Why is spontaneity assumed to be a virtue?

Nat Turner's rebellion was plotted for six months according to Thomas Wentworth Higginson, organised with a core of six people, then recruiting the eventual 50 or 60 who took party during the rebellion itself. It was not 'spontaneous' but meticulously executed.

They went from plantation to plantation, killing every white person they could and recruiting slaves along the way (grabbing food and weapons etc. too) at each one. It was a scorched earth policy with the intention to either take the entire area, or get to the Dismal Swamp maroon community if they couldn't.

This is not a moral difference of spontaneity, entirely your own invention that doesn't relate remotely to what I said or the actual history of that rebellion, but the difference between an insurrection against the ruling class, and the ruling class crushing a (potential) insurrection (or just perceived indiscipline) of workers, using a standing army and secret police.

Reddebrek
Feb 15 2018 19:07
Big No No wrote:
Been watching Noa doing god's work in this thread, but this post is getting around and I feel like this summary of all the utter nonsense in this article needs to be in this comment section: Did Lenin Order A "Massacre of Sex Workers"? (Spoiler Warning: Probably Not)

Yeah, whoever wrote that is talking complete nonsense.

"what is an almost openly fraudulent claim made by libcom"

This is not a claim fraudulent or otherwise, its rehosting a translated telegram from the website Marxists Internet Archive (MIA), they typed it up from Lenin's Collected Works, a collection that was published by Progress Publishers, a publishing firm funded by the Soviet Union and part of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) its employees including this telegrams translator Andrew Rothstein were loyal party members. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Rothstein

You can tell all this because beneath the text of the telegram is a full reference with a link to the same telegram hosted on the Marxists Internet Archive. So if this is a forgery the fault lies with the defunct CPGB, since they were the ones who produced it.

But of course if Progress Publishers, Rothstein or even the MIA were blamed for this the argument would quickly fall apart. No one would buy the line if they were named.

"Now, there's one fatal flaw with all of this: no such massacre ever happened. There is absolutely no proof, no sources whatsoever that show that sex workers were massacred on Lenin's orders. "

??? yeah did the fellow not even read the title?

"But let's put that aside. After all, if Lenin wanted sex workers to be shot and deported, it wouldn't matter all that much that his officers never came around to acting on this order, right? "

Oh apparently they did, so the "fatal flaw" can be put aside? Ok sure,.

Oh and for the list of sources, and claims of being "anomalous", according to Kollontai the Bolshevik party often treated sex workers as labour deserters, which often meant they were sent to labour camps.

http://libcom.org/library/alexandra-kollontai-prostitutes-forced-labour-camps-1921

Quote:
Since the revolution attitudes, to trade and merchants have changed radically. We now call the “honest merchant” a speculator, and instead of awarding him honorary tides we drag him before a special committee and put him in a forced labour camp. Why do we do this?’ Because we know that we can only build a new communist economy if all adult citizens are involved in productive labour. The person who does not work and who lives off someone else or on an unearned wage harms the collective and the republic. We, therefore, hunt down the speculators, the traders and the hoarders who all live off unearned income. We must fight prostitution as another form of labour desertion.

And in his interview with Clara Zetkin he ridiculed the idea of organising sex workers.

http://libcom.org/library/clara-zetkin-interviews-lenin-womens-question

Quote:
To understand this is one thing, but it is quite another thing how shall I put it? To organize the prostitutes as a special revolutionary guild contingent and publish a trade union paper for them. Are there really no industrial working women left in Germany who need organizing, who need a newspaper, who should be enlisted in your struggle? This is a morbid deviation. It strongly reminds me of the literary vogue which made a sweet madonna out of every prostitute. Its origin was sound too: social sympathy, and indignation against the moral hypocrisy of the honorable bourgeoisie. But the healthy principle underwent bourgeois corrosion and degenerated. The question of prostitution will confront us even in our country with many a difficult problem. Return the prostitute to productive work, find her a place in the social economy that is the thing to do. But the present state of our economy and all the other circumstances make it a difficult and complicated matter. Here you have an aspect of the woman problem which faces us in all its magnitude, after the proletariat has come to power, and demands a practical solution. It will still require a great deal of effort here in Soviet Russia. But to return to your special problem in Germany. Under no circumstances should the Party look calmly upon such improper acts of its members. It causes confusion and splits our forces. Now what have you done to stop it?”

Seems like the Redditor(?) is deliberately cherry picking.

Craftwork
Feb 15 2018 19:31
Big No No wrote:
Craftwork wrote:
Trotskyism is a form of leftism, not Marxism.

1. Horseshit
2. Irrelevant

These are also accurate descriptions of Trotskyism.

Noa Rodman
Feb 15 2018 20:46

FWIW, the Black Book of Communism guy (S. Courtois) in French put the sentence like this (I'm guessing he just translated it from English):

introduire sur le champ la terreur de masse, fusiller ou déporter les centaines de prostituées qui font boire les soldats, tous les ex-officiers, etc.

i.e. he made a slight variation:

shoot or deport the hundreds of prostitutes who are making drunkards of the soldiers, all the former officers and the like.

So that appears like the sentence makes a list of persons (which includes prostitutes, former officers and various unspecified others).

Uncreative
Feb 15 2018 21:31
Noa Rodman wrote:
FWIW, the Black Book of Communism guy (S. Courtois) in French put the sentence like this (I'm guessing he just translated it from English):

introduire sur le champ la terreur de masse, fusiller ou déporter les centaines de prostituées qui font boire les soldats, tous les ex-officiers, etc.

i.e. he made a slight variation:

shoot or deport the hundreds of prostitutes who are making drunkards of the soldiers, all the former officers and the like.

So that appears like the sentence makes a list of persons (which includes prostitutes, former officers and various unspecified others).

Man, if only someone from the USSR, like an official translator or something, had produced a translation of the sentence at some point. Then we wouldn't have to go scrabbling round for translations, because we would have the official translation, which would have been rigorously checked for accuracy before being published and quickly corrected if by any chance an error sneaked through. If only we had that. If only.

Pennoid
Feb 15 2018 21:39

Again, I'm having trouble; the problem is not that Lenin ordered sex workers killed but that he did it through the vehicle of a "state"?

What do you mean by ruling class? Was Lenin a capitalist? We're the bolsheviks mostly capitalists and aristocrats? Was their program oriented toward those interests?

Mike Harman
Feb 15 2018 22:33

Oh I don't know Pennoid, let's ask the man himself:

Lenin wrote:
Nor is that all. Look at the factional attacks in which this pamphlet abounds. In the very first thesis we find a threatening “gesture” at “certain workers in the trade union movement” who are thrown “back to trade-unionism, pure and simple, which the Party repudiated in principle long ago “ (evidently the Party is represented by only one member of the Central Committee’s nineteen). Thesis 8 grandiloquently condemns “the craft conservatism prevalent among the top trade union functionaries” (note the truly bureaucratic concentration of attention on the “top”!). Thesis 11 opens with the astonishingly tactful, conclusive and business-like (what is the most polite word for it?) “hint” that the “majority of the trade unionists . . . give only formal, that is, verbal, recognition” to the resolutions of the Party’s Ninth Congress.

We find that we have some very authoritative judges before us who say the majority (!) of the trade unionists give only verbal recognition to the Party’s decisions.

Thesis 12 reads:

“. . . many trade unionists take an ever more aggressive and uncompromising stand against the prospect of’coalescence’. . . . Among them we find Comrades Tomsky and Lozovsky.

“What is more, many trade unionists, balking at the new tasks, and methods, tend to cultivate in their midst a spirit of corporative exclusiveness and hostility for the new men who are being drawn into the given branch of the economy, thereby actually fostering the survivals of craft-unionism among the organised workers.”

Let the reader go over these arguments carefully and ponder them. They simply abound in “gems”. Firstly, the pronouncement must be assessed from the standpoint of factionalism! Imagine what Trotsky would have said, and how he would have said it, if Tomsky had published a platform accusing Trotsky and “many” military workers of cultivating the spirit of bureaucracy, fostering the survivals of savagery, etc. What is the “role” of Bukharin, Preobrazhensky, Serebryakov and the others who fail to see—positively fail to note, utterly fail to note—the aggressiveness and factionalism of all this, and refuse to see how much more factional it is than the pronouncement of the Petrograd comrades?

Secondly, take a closer look at the approach to the subject: many trade unionists “tend to cultivate in their midst a spirit”. . . . This is an out-and-out bureaucratic approach. The whole point, you see, is not the level of development and living conditions of the masses in their millions, but the “spirit” which Tomsky and Lozovsky tend to cultivate “in their midst”.

Thirdly, Comrade Trotsky has unwittingly revealed the essence of the whole controversy which he and the Bukharin and Co. “buffer” have been evading and camouflaging with such care.

What is the point at issue? Is it the fact that many trade unionists are balking at the new tasks and methods and tend to cultivate in their midst a spirit of hostility for the new officials?

Or is it that the masses of organised workers are legitimately protesting and inevitably showing readiness to throw out the new officials who refuse to rectify the useless and harmful excesses of bureaucracy?

Is it that someone has refused to understand the “new tasks and methods”?

Or is it that someone is making a clumsy attempt to cover up his defence of certain useless and harmful excesses of bureaucracy with a lot of talk about new tasks and methods?

It is this essence of the dispute that the reader should bear in mind.

..

Let us go deeper into the question. Let us see what the present trade unions are, as an “apparatus” of industrial management. We have seen from the incomplete returns that about 900 workers—trade union members and delegates—are engaged in industrial management. If you multiply this number by 10 or even by 100—if it helps to clarify your fundamental mistake let us assume this incredible speed of “advance” in the immediate future—you still have an insignificant proportion of those directly engaged in management, as compared with the mass of six million trade union members.

...
class economic struggle but the non-class “economic struggle”, which means combating bureaucratic distortions of the Soviet apparatus, safeguarding the working people’s material and spiritual interests in ways and means inaccessible to this apparatus, etc. This is a struggle they will unfortunately have to face for many more years to come).

https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1921/jan/25.htm

Or..

Lenin wrote:
We must reduce our state apparatus to the utmost degree of economy. We must banish from it all traces of extravagance, of which so much has been left over from tsarist Russia, from its bureaucratic capitalist state machine.

https://libcom.org/library/better-fewer-better

Or...

Lenin wrote:
The state capitalism, which is one of the principal aspects of the New Economic Policy, is, under Soviet power, a form of capitalism that is deliberately permitted and restricted by the working class. Our state capitalism differs essentially from the state capitalism in countries that have bourgeois governments in that the state with us is represented not by the bourgeoisie, but by the proletariat, who has succeeded in winning the full confidence of the peasantry.
Unfortunately, the introduction of state capitalism with us is not proceeding as quickly as we would like it. For example, so far we have not had a single important concession, and without foreign capital to help develop our economy, the latter’s quick rehabilitation is inconceivable.

https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1922/nov/14b.htm

Or...

Lenin wrote:
State capitalism would be a step forward as compared with the present state of affairs in our Soviet Republic. If in approximately six months’ time state capitalism became established in our Republic, this would be a great success and a sure guarantee that within a year socialism will have gained a permanently firm hold and will have become invincible in this country.

I can imagine with what noble indignation some people will recoil from these words. . . . What! The transition to state capitalism in the Soviet Socialist Republic would be a step forward? . . . Isn’t this the betrayal of socialism?

We must deal with this point in greater detail.

Firstly, we must examine the nature of the transition from capitalism to socialism that gives us the right and the grounds to call our country a Socialist Republic of Soviets.

Secondly, we must expose the error of those who fail to see the petty-bourgeois economic conditions and the petty-bourgeois element as the principal enemy of socialism in our country.

Thirdly, we must fully understand the economic implications of the distinction between the Soviet state and the bourgeois state.

Let us examine these three points.

No one, I think, in studying the question of the economic system of Russia, has denied its transitional character. Nor, I think, has any Communist denied that the term Soviet Socialist Republic implies the determination of the Soviet power to achieve the transition to socialism, and not that the existing economic system is recognised as a socialist order.

But what does the word “transition” mean? Does it not mean, as applied to an economy, that the present system contains elements, particles, fragments of both capitalism and socialism? Everyone will admit that it does. But not all who admit this take the trouble to consider what elements actually constitute the various socio-economic structures that exist in Russia at the present time. And this is the crux of the question.

https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1921/apr/21.htm

Quite clear he saw himself at the head of a state, that had only had cosmetic change from the Tsarist one, which had mixtures of 'capitalism' and 'socialism', and as part of a bureaucratic class that rank and file workers had legitimate reasons to assert themselves against.

Not exactly in Lenin's favour, but at least he had some semblance of an ability to self-reflect, something Leninists appear unable to grasp.

Big No No
Feb 15 2018 23:05

1. The post doesn't argue that the document isn't real but that it was misinterpreted. It also explainshow it was misinterpreted.
2. I guess Kollontai is eelevant for some reason?
3. Lenin doesn't argue against organizing sex workers but that industrial workers are more important. Say what you will of this position, it doesn't contradict claims made in the post.

Seems like the libcomer (?) is uh, not reading the things hep comments on.

Big No No
Feb 15 2018 23:07
Craftwork wrote:
Big No No wrote:
Craftwork wrote:
Trotskyism is a form of leftism, not Marxism.

1. Horseshit
2. Irrelevant

These are also accurate descriptions of Trotskyism.

"I know you are but what am I" is uh... sadly, not the least intelligent argument I've heard from you lot.

radicalgraffiti
Feb 16 2018 00:54
Big No No wrote:
1. The post doesn't argue that the document isn't real but that it was misinterpreted. It also explainshow it was misinterpreted.

the only people missinterprting it are those deffending lenin

Big No No wrote:
2. I guess Kollontai is eelevant for some reason?

what is eelevent?

Big No No wrote:
3. Lenin doesn't argue against organizing sex workers but that industrial workers are more important. Say what you will of this position, it doesn't contradict claims made in the post.

Seems like the libcomer (?) is uh, not reading the things hep comments on.

so sex workers should somehow organise industrial workers? this is bull shit, he was clearly objecting the organisation of sex workers at all, the fact that he framed it as priorities doesn't changes a thing

Red Marriott
Feb 16 2018 02:32
pennoid wrote:
What do you mean by ruling class? Was Lenin a capitalist? We're the bolsheviks mostly capitalists and aristocrats? Was their program oriented toward those interests?

It seems we have to teach leninism to the leninists... A ruling class doesn't have to be typically capitalist, as every good marxist is supposed to know;

Marx & Engels wrote:
The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class; and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible. ...
When, in the course of development, class distinctions have disappeared, and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character. Political power, properly so called, is merely the organised power of one class for oppressing another. If the proletariat during its contest with the bourgeoisie is compelled, by the force of circumstances, to organise itself as a class, if, by means of a revolution, it makes itself the ruling class, and, as such, sweeps away by force the old conditions of production, then it will, along with these conditions, have swept away the conditions for the existence of class antagonisms and of classes generally, and will thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a class.
https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/ch02.htm
Lenin wrote:
According to Marx, the state is an organ of class rule, an organ for the oppression of one class by another; it is the creation of “order”, which legalizes and perpetuates this oppression by moderating the conflict between classes. ...
The supersession of the bourgeois state by the proletarian state is impossible without a violent revolution. The abolition of the proletarian state, i.e., of the state in general, is impossible except through the process of “withering away".
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/staterev/ch01.htm
jef costello
Feb 16 2018 08:26
Noa Rodman wrote:
introduire sur le champ la terreur de masse, fusiller ou déporter les centaines de prostituées qui font boire les soldats, tous les ex-officiers.

I am not sure if this source is any good, but you should have a full stop after officers. If the French is translated from the English then it makes little difference, but the French is very clear, shoot or deport the ex-officers and the prostitutes (who get the men drunk/make the men drink)

Isn't this just a pointless argument? The official translation is clear, google translating Russian isn't going to help that much. So unless a native Russian speaker can help then perhaps give it a rest. Either way, Lenin is at the very least ordering the deportation of sex-workers.But then I supppose if the argument can be dragged out over whether he was actually just deporting them then it can be further dragged out by arguing what deportation meant. One clear conclusion, this will not advance class politics.

How about this? Leninists, do you agree with shooting sex-workers? Do you agree with deporting them to Siberia? Do you agree with deporting them to some other place, perhaps a nice Dacha in Sochi, Lenin could have meant that, surely?

The only important thing, aside from which picture you want on your badge, is whether you actually think doing such things was right. So, cards on the table, is it ok to shoot sex-workers? Stop equivocating and nitpicking over precisely what he said, or what else might have been happening. Is it ok to shoot sex-workers to institute revolutionary terror or not?

Big No No
Feb 16 2018 12:29
jef costello wrote:
So, cards on the table, is it ok to shoot sex-workers? Stop equivocating and nitpicking over precisely what he said, or what else might have been happening. Is it ok to shoot sex-workers to institute revolutionary terror or not?

lol, who's equivocating? Isn't it clear the only reason we're having this discussion is because the answer is an obvious no?

Fleur
Feb 16 2018 13:05

Then why are Leninists getting their panties in such a bunch over this then? No one is nit picking about the translation of mass terror. Shoot, shoot and deport, whatever he had in mind wasn't a tea party. I hate to break it to you mate but your guy wasn't a teddy bear.

Man, fandoms are annoying. It must be very strange to feel so strongly about your heroes that you cannot even countenance the idea that someone did something shitty 100 years ago, during a brutal civil war. It's almost like you've made him into a saint.

Fleur
Feb 16 2018 13:42

Just to clarify, if I were a ML I might have looked at that document and thought shit, that's fucked up but we don't know if these orders were carried out. Maybe Lenin was having a bad day and people say all kinds of shit when they're under pressure. Anyway, a lot of atrocities were going down at the time, it was a fucking awful period and people were fighting to keep the revolution. Social opinions were different back then, unfortunately. We just have to make sure that previous mistakes are not repeated going forward.

What I wouldn't do is throw a tantrum about defaming my beloved revolutionary sainted leader and spend a week arguing about it. But there again, I'm not a ML and I'm also a very busy person with no time for that sort of shit.

zugzwang
Feb 16 2018 14:03
Pennoid wrote:
Or Lenin was in the position with other bolsheviks of commanding an army that needed to keep the whites out in order to secure power and stave off any much more thorough going and systematic destruction of workers and poor peasants (not to mention ethnic minorities) with the whites.

Would you invoke that response for their suppression of anti-tsarist-bolshevik uprisings?

Big No No
Feb 16 2018 14:41
Fleur wrote:
Then why are Leninists getting their panties in such a bunch over this then?

"Getting their panties in a bunch", what a wonderful, progressive way to voice your disagreement. I bet you feel very macho right now.

To get back to the subject, the reason why this is hotly debated is because this is the latest in a string of slander meant to discredit the October Revolution and, by proxy, Bolshevism itself. If you want to argue for Bolshevism, it makes since to argue against attempts to argue that it leads to anti-worker atrocities, such as the one falsely attributed to Lenin in this article and all over libcom.

I love that you said "look, this doesn't matter, just say whether or not you are against killing sex workers", and now that you got your answer, you've circled back to making arguments that have already been answered here. I gave you my answer: yes, of course attacking sex workers is wrong. I've also answered the rest of your drivel. I understand you're embarrassed at your rhetorical tricks not bearing fruit, but that doesn't mean you get to waste my time any more than you already have.

Pennoid
Feb 16 2018 14:54

Red and Mike;

Right, ok so a few things to clarify:

1. The nature of the state determines who is able to govern *through* that state. E.g. the proletarian state isn't merely one where any proletarian party has won power. That much is clear from looking at history. And similarly with bourgeois parties/politics.

2. The form of the state is often, however, transformed via parties representing particular class interests. I.e., aims to transform the nature of the state in order that a particular class can govern. These are functional and practical aims with regards to the nature of production and decision making.

3. Therefore, the class interest of the proletariat, for a democratic (thoroughly, e.g. in commune sense) form of government, is the same as that interest in the class to govern itself, repress it's enemies, and see the state (in general an apparatus of class rule) abolished.

4. Notice that there is a distinction between ruling *party* and ruling *class*. The state isn't a hammer anybody can just go and pick up and use differently. It's form is connected to the regime of production very closely.

5. Hence, the transition from Russia's traditionalist peasant economy to one of capitalism, was seen by *virtually all* socialists at the time, as being necessary; iirc the Mensheviks felt that the capitalists and their parties had to enact it; the Bolsheviks felt that a working class party could unite the general population behind a demand for democracy and the sovereignty of the people now; and socialism thereafter. In either case there was an understanding that there was not going to be an immediate leap into communism (War Communism ferver among some parties notwithstanding). This is true in Lenin and in Marx and Engels. Thus Lenin's discussion of 'state-capitalism' and the NEP are both strategic methods for transitioning to socialism; e.g. peaceably enticing the peasant to give up his land, and petty proprietor interests, etc., unlike Stalin's nightmares of forced collectivization.

So we come to the point; did Lenin and the Bolsheviks constitute a ruling *class*? or Merely a ruling party? As Mike points out, it makes a difference who does the massacring. To this we could draw a parallel I'm sure I'll get plenty of flak for relying on; did the Republican Unionists represent a ruling class, or ruling party in the Civil War? Given that it was a civil war, it's hard to see they were the ruling class; they were literally fighting for a claim to be even the ruling *party* of the whole territory. Similarly so in the case of the Bolsheviks.

What's more, even having won both their civil wars, the bourgeois republicans and the bolsheviks were faced with the task of laying the basis for their class state (in the one case bourgeois and in the other proletarian).

The bolsheviks failed, plainly, where the Republicans succeeded. But I don't think we can chalk this failure simplistically up to Lenin's mad ego, or his shoddy ideology. That's pretty damn reductive. Lenin wasn't a dictator. He was constantly opposed and engaged in debate and discussion in a party that, even after some heavy war, tolerated dispute and factions.

Nor can we lazily describe the Bolsheviks and their tenuous grasp on authority as constituting a new ruling class by 1918 (less than a year into the civil war and after the October Revolution).

What's more, Lenin was a staunch critic of the bureaucracy as it was emerging and in his death. The source you quote explicitly bemoans the muddled headed thinking of comrades that leads to a defense of bureaucracy. The bureaucratic aspects of government make it unwieldy for the proletariat to utilize the state. But at the same time, insurrectionist terrorism by peasants, the need to feed the cities and the collapse of the economy were like an acid on democracy and a catalyst on the growth of bureaucracy. These are Lenin's positions; that the Soviet government was constructed on a compromise between two classes (peasants and workers) which made it vulnerable to splitting, as well as encouraged the proliferation of bureaucracy. This is what would lead to the stalinist degeneration of the revolution and the ultimate failure of the Bolsheviks; not mere ideology on the part of a single person (talk about big-man history!) but the material fact of the social division of labor in Russia, it's lack of development, and the many failed strategies for dealing with it in conjunction with the world working class movement.

To sum, the question isn't merely "a ruling class member ordering the deaths of workers."

a) Because people have adduced sufficient doubt that this is what the original message said (see Noa and others' multiple posts).
b) Because it does not fit in with any other pattern or policy in the war, to massacre specifically sex workers
c) Because no narrative purpose for this order (as interpreted in the OP, rather than the *multiple other translations and translators which support an alternative interpretation) has been presented.
d) No evidence has been presented that a massacre took place (though Noa presented the execution statistics).
e) It isn't clear that the Bolsheviks yet constituted a "ruling class" though they were clearly the ruling party.

Notice, when Noa presented the initial alternative interpretation the response by one poster was:

Quote:
i'm not sure on what basis you are assuming the couldn't have been included in the political category? they often gave misleading labels to people they wanted to execute

This is poor history and poor logic. We don't look back at events and documents and then speculate about what we would *like* to say or what *could* be said. Or at least we shouldn't. The aim should be to look for what the evidence supports.

Red Marriott
Feb 16 2018 15:00

[Edit; posted before I saw his post above.]
Pennoid is right that people from any side of an argument can sometimes leap on facts to one-sidely use to prove what they want. But his premise here is wrong and typically leninist;

Quote:
I think there are intertwining questions that have to be unravelled; in two broad categories - What was the reason for terror from the view of the bolsheviks and how did it unfold in practice; and what happened in this particular case?

...insofar as his question doesn’t even question the legitimacy of the Bolshviks to monopolise such commands and decisions making processes – he reduces the question to whether their decisions were justified. He asks if they were in the interests of the exploited but not the more important question – if the state monopoly on decision making was? Why did the ‘Soviet Power’ state not consult with the local Soviet on such questions? Cos it wasn’t dominated by Bolsheviks, presumably and the area was considered ‘unreliable’, ie, not submissive.

Nor does the bureaucratic record of events like this tell the whole story; eg, if one assessed the Makhnovists only from Trotsky’s military writings during the civil war (published in several volumes as ‘How the Revolution Armed’) one would dismiss them only as counter-revolutionary kulak bandits; which is no more than lies & smears of non-Bolshevik revolutionaries. So when Bolsheviks talked of kulaks, bandits, counter-revolutionaries these were sometimes dismissive labels attached to all those – regardless of actual class or politics – who opposed the new Bolshevik regime. Ie, a coded shorthand reference implying ‘if not actually, as bad as kulaks’... As they were ordering terror some may also have phrased being mindful of how such messages/orders would look to later historians.

Noa wrote:
Quote:
Red Marriott wrote:
and if your convoluted interpretation that he didn’t literally mean prostitutes to be shot was true it would be incredibly careless to convey life & death orders by telegram in such an unclear ambiguous way – when even defenders like you have to split hairs over the order of words to claim your preferred meaning.

Luckily the letter further specifies:
Lenin wrote:
You must act with all energy. Mass searches. Execution for concealing arms. Mass deportation of Mensheviks and unreliables. Change the guards at warehouses, put in reliable people.

Nah, that reads like a separate additional order of who to target rather than clarification of the earlier paragraph targeting prostitutes.

Though we don’t know exactly what happened on the ground in this case, we do know that terror was sanctioned and we know it was generally applied brutally to all opposition to the new regime. We know that some Bolsheviks were unhappy about it but that roving bands of Cheka thugs were unleashed with great autonomy to crush all opposition. We know that messages sent by Lenin on the same day & in the same week called for hangings etc; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lenin%27s_Hanging_Order
We know there were local strikes, unrest in the region about grain requisition among peasants and Left SRs and that the Bolsheviks were politically weak, didn’t control the local Soviet etc., we also know how they generally responded at the time to resistance to their dominance. Whether prostitutes actually died as a result of the order is not the most important point – though the general Cheka methods of the time suggest they may’ve done, easily caught up in the blunt terror unleashed after the assassination attempt on Lenin.

More important is that the whole scenario is indicative of the growth of state power and its repression, used against all opposition, from right to left. Big No No claims;

Quote:
it makes since to argue against attempts to argue that it [Bolshevism] leads to anti-worker atrocities

...and Pennoid wants events put in context – here’s some; Miasnikov, a veteran working class Party member, was the first notable Bolshevik to suffer Lenin’s repression – denounced & jailed in 1922. Miasnikov had written in 1921 to Lenin;

Quote:
Reminding Lenin of his revolutionary credentials, he wrote: "You say that I want freedom of the press for the bourgeoisie. On the contrary, I want freedom of the press for myself, a proletarian, a member of the party for fifteen years," and not abroad but inside Russia, facing danger and arrest. Miasnikov told of his experience in tsarist prisons, his hunger strikes, beatings, and escapes. Surely he had earned a little freedom of the press, "within the party at least. Or is it that I must take my leave as soon as I disagree with you in the evaluation of social forces?" If so, this is a crude way of settling differences. You say, Miasnikov went on, that the jaws of the bourgeoisie must be cracked.
"The trouble is that, while you raise your hand against the capitalist, you deal a blow to the worker. You know very well that for such words as I am now uttering hundreds, perhaps thousands, of workers are languishing in prison. That I myself remain at liberty is only because I am a veteran Communist, have suffered for my beliefs, and am known among the mass of workers. Were it not for this, were I just an ordinary mechanic from the same factory, where would I be now? In a Cheka prison or, more likely, made to 'escape,' just as I made Mikhail Romanov 'escape.' [Miasnikov was apparently involved in the murder of the Tsar] Once more I say: You raise your hand against the bourgeoisie, but it is I who am spitting blood, and it is we, the workers, whose jaws are being cracked."

Miasnikov’s public criticisms of Party repression were discussed at the 11th Congress;

Quote:
Miasnikov found no defenders at the congress. But one delegate, V. V. Kosior, argued that Lenin had taken the wrong approach to the question of dissent. If someone, said Koisior, had the courage to point out deficiencies in party work, he was marked down as an oppositionist, relieved of authority, placed under surveillance, and-a reference to Miasnikov-even expelled from the party. The party, Kosior, warned, was alienating itself from the workers. https://libcom.org/book/export/html/1200

As a result of decisions at the Congress Miasnikov was expelled from the Party, jailed, then released and put under continuous surveillance. He was eventually driven into exile abroad. All this for simply publicly voicing opposition to the growth of elite rule by the Party and repression of the working class. This was the work of the Cheka, the same Cheka employed in the same period at Nizhny; repression at least as much against the working class and poor peasantry as against any bourgeois/White threat.

Quote:
“Workers also condemned the bloody terror perpetrated in their name. ‘Enough blood! Down with Terror!’ proclaimed the All-Ukrainian Trade Union Council in September [1918]. ‘Red is the colour of truth and justice,’ declared the railway workers of Kozlov. ‘But under the Bolsheviks it has become the colour of blood’. (Figes- A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution – centenary edition)

But poetic justice meant that most of the old Bolshevik guard who then wholeheartedly supported and implemented the Party repression mechanism against political opponents and the working class had by the early 1940s perished themselves as victims of Stalin’s refinement of that same mechanism. The supposed absolute disconnect between the origins of Cheka repression in the Lenin era and later Stalinist terror is a necessary Trotskyist myth but not a convincing one.

Pennoid
Feb 16 2018 15:14

Fleur, from the start Noa and I have not once claimed that Lenin is infallible. In fact that first thing Noa did is exactly what you say; point out that it isn't necessarily clear that the above interpretation is the final or best one, nor is it clear that the order was carried out in the fashion the above interpretation implies, nor that it was general policy. Further, we've conceded that yes the Bolsheviks (like the anarchists in Spain, or the Republicans in France etc.) engaged in terror to repress their enemies, and yes this led to catastrophe at times. Even more, Noa pointed out the Lenin was prone to hyperbole or dramatic statements!

Notice these are distinct claims from those being leveled by some here that Lenin is a murderous thug, or that Lenin's personal disposition is to blame for any real or potential atrocities, or that the presence of terror, at all, is enough to determine that yes a massacre happened of sex workers in this case, and yes it was awful.

In place of a counter argument to Noa, most here have resorted to name calling and belittling, which honestly just betrays their own insecurity in their argument. I'm not a 'Leninist' in any way. I think the political program thrust onto the Marxist movement as a result of the progressive degeneration of the Bolshevik party through the Civil War and popularized through the Comintern has had a destructive effect on the marxist and thereby workers' movement. I think it's given us Trotskyism and the 53 other varieties of left sects. But anarchists too play their role in this. None of us are above it.

Lenin may have intended to kill sex workers, and the order may have been carried out. Why not evaluate the extant arguments and evidence, and keep up the search for more, rather than dismiss what doesn't fit into a simplistic narrative suitable for your current political purposes (e.g. patting your friends on the back, justifying your ideology). Noa offered several sources for the alternative interpretation and none were treated with a thorough going rejection.

I'm sorry zugzwang, what exactly are you referring to?

Steven.
Feb 16 2018 15:33

I'm finding some Leninists defence of Lenin here pretty hilarious. "Okay well he may have ordered sex workers to be killed (or deported), but there is no evidence those orders were followed".

Because that doesn't really count as a defence of the order-giver. If anything it counts as a defence of those who were receiving his orders: rank-and-file communists. (Many of whom would have subsequently been executed for disloyalty or "sabotage" or being "counterrevolutionary".)

It's weird, I mean I have never heard an anarchist try to defend Bakunin's anti-Semitism. All I have heard people say about that is, yes, he was anti-Semitic, and that was appalling and wrong – not try to desperately did round for excuses, and claim that his anti-Semitism was translated badly, or that when he said "Jews" he didn't mean Jews but sometimes meant other people he just called "Jews"… But some other stuff Bakunin said and did was good. But that doesn't mean you can't criticise bad stuff.

Pennoid
Feb 16 2018 15:35

Red,
I'm sympathetic with Myasnakov. I'm sympathetic with the position (as I laid out) that the terror utilized in the process of *civil war* degenerated the party and the soviet state, developed the bureaucracy and destroyed democracy. But Lenin, and others, offered explanations and reasons for their actions that require interrogation.

With regard grain requisitions, that seems an altogether separate issue that no party in power could avoid; The whites, the anarchists, the bolsheviks, the mensheviks, etc. all would need to feed the cities somehow; and when a class based on the private property in the means of production feel they can't get a good price for their product (the peasants) they hoard, or don't work. So what does a good democrat do? It's not an easy question.

Nevertheless it is a different question to that of terrorizing pro-white forces, or using legal/extralegal methods to prosecute insurrectionist elements (anarchists, sr's, etc.) trying to take down the Bolshevik government. All of this is open for debate and discussion. Again, I've never said everything that Lenin, et. al. did was justified.

The conditions that saw the Bolsheviks rise to the position of social authority are completely within the realm of debate. I don't know if carrying it out here is ideal because it will take us down another track. But my position doesn't require supporting the Bolshevik claim to authority.

If we want to understand the terror in general and in particular, then we have to study the people who implemented it. That's what the quoted text is referring to. Of course we have to study the contextual events, as we both agree, and try and find info out about those it was conducted against.

So I think we agree on a great deal, that's getting lost in the details or in the traditional grooves of team-taking. Happy to keep up the discussion. Maybe we can start a separate thread for the discussion of terror in general (or the Red Terror and it's effects on the Soviet Regime) and then keep this to presentations of sources with respect to this specific order and events?

Uncreative
Feb 16 2018 15:40
Pennoid wrote:
Noa offered several sources for the alternative interpretation and none were treated with a thorough going rejection.

We could compare Noas "sources" (a "guess" by a non-Russian speaker supplemented by ru.wiktionary) to some sort of, i dont know, official translation of what Lenin wrote, perhaps? One that was intended for wide scale publication and dissemination? Maybe we could even tilt the scales a little in Lenins favour, and find a translation done by a political sympathiser of his? I'm sure that would get to the bottom of this translation problem.

Hey, maybe theres one up on marxists.org, has anyone checked?