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

Share


  • 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

Pennoid
Feb 16 2018 15:45

Steven, my reasoning is this;

1. There are credible claims that it is a mistranslation. If they are true, it would undo the whole controversy.

2. If the translation is roughly correct, it is indeed an indictment on Lenin that his aim was to execute sex workers. However as many have suggested, he was prone to hyperbole. Thus, what actually happened matters because it helps determine if sex workers were executed (important) and helps us determine if it was indeed typical hyperbole (e.g. the officers read this and said "Well we're not going to execute sex workers, we get it, we need to handle the situation.") This is what I mean when I say that figuring out if it happened can help us understand partly the intent behind the telegram.

There's not really a question that Lenin and the Bolsheviks in general had an outdated view of sex workers. (See the Kollontai post Mike shared where she argues against Bolsheviks who feel sex work require special criminalization and she moderates to a position of 'labor desertion in general' as their offense). I certainly wouldn't contend otherwise. I think Kollontai offers some interesting insights on the questions of class and gender, but there are components that seem to fail. That's history.

It's funny that people are claiming that this is silly and annoying that it's inspiring discussion and debate. I have to assume that was the purpose.

Pennoid
Feb 16 2018 15:52

Uncreative,

see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venedikt_Yerofeyev

A soviet dissident who collected quotes from Lenin that were particularly nasty and meant to wash away they idolatry of Lenin (at least as I understand from the Wiki summary); which Noa quoted above.

That seems like a pretty credible source, a life-long Russian language speaker, a soviet dissident, with little sympathy for portraying Lenin in a positive light, pointing out the ambiguity in the telegram. It is what it is. Ambiguous.

Khawaga
Feb 16 2018 16:04
Big No No wrote:
"Getting their panties in a bunch", what a wonderful, progressive way to voice your disagreement. I bet you feel very macho right now.

This is a hilarious comment for those of us who knows Fleur. But in any case, why not deal with the substance of her argument rather than, in typical masculine style, dismissing something a woman said.*

*Granted, you're somewhat excused since you wouldn't know anything about Fleur.

Uncreative
Feb 16 2018 16:10
Pennoid wrote:
Uncreative,

see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venedikt_Yerofeyev

A soviet dissident who collected quotes from Lenin that were particularly nasty and meant to wash away they idolatry of Lenin (at least as I understand from the Wiki summary); which Noa quoted above.

That seems like a pretty credible source, a life-long Russian language speaker, a soviet dissident, with little sympathy for portraying Lenin in a positive light, pointing out the ambiguity in the telegram. It is what it is. Ambiguous.

Can you imagine the translators thoughts?

"Hmm, this is an ambiguous sentence by Lenin, my hero. Its either him saying to shoot a load of sex workers, or it isn't. Well, I'll probably go with it being about shooting sex workers, and carry on with my translation job. I'm sure the party will be pleased, and that no-one between me writing it and it being published will question or object to this, and it will never be corrected or even footnoted as being ambiguous, or anything."

EDIT: Is this the first time anyone has read this particular translation of Lenin? Or have Leninists been reading it and sending corrections in to the publishers to no avail for the past however many years since publication?

Auld-bod
Feb 16 2018 16:28

Noa’s post (Feb 11 13:33) quotes Lincoln Steffens’ conversation with Lenin regarding terror. Lenin demands, “who asks about our killings?’ Steffens replies, “Paris” Lenin retorts - "Do you mean to tell me that those men who have just generated the slaughter of seventeen millions of men in a purposeless war are concerned over the few thousands that have been killed in a revolution which has a conscious aim to get out of the necessity of war and – and armed peace?”

Lenin is correct to questions their hypocrisy, and without meaning to, identifies himself in the same league of self-justification. All tyrants believe they have the right to crush all opposition – the end justifying any means.

Where anarchists differ is that they recognise a direct relationship between ends and means. In a revolutionary war bad things will happen, the important thing is they must not generate institutions of terror, as these will never just ‘wither away’. Lenin and the Bolsheviks consciously set up these institutions, which eventually devoured most of its creators and in the long term helped set back the world revolution. In the end, Lenin’s revolution was just as ‘purposeless’ as the imperialist war he held in contempt.

Steven.
Feb 16 2018 16:31
Uncreative wrote:
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?

Uncreative, Reddebrek spoke about this translation in detail above. This translation is from Marxists.org, and was written by Leninists, and funded by the Soviet Union.

We have also checked and confirmed the translation with a native Russian speaker: whose comment on the unambiguous nature of the text was pasted above by Mike Harman.

Noa Rodman
Feb 16 2018 16:41

There are 2 English books which altered the official translation (which gives the impression that Lenin speaks only of prostitutes), into one where the sentence turns into a list of prostitutes, former officers and the like:

shoot and deport the hundreds of prostitutes who are making drunkards of the soldiers, as well as former officers, etc.

^The Russian Civil War, Evan Mawdsley

He ordered "shooting and deportation of prostitutes who made soldiers drunk,of former officers, and the like".

^p. 156 Terrorism: From Robespierre to the Weather Underground, Albert Parry

--
A couple of quotes that terror wasn't just ordered from the top-down:

On 26 June, he [Lenin] had written bluntly to Petrograd:

'Comrade Zinoviev. Only today we have heard in the Central Committee that the workers in Petrograd wanted to respond to the murder of Volodarski [by an SR] with mass terror and that you (not you personally but the Central Committee and City Committee leaders in Petrograd) restrained them. I assertively protest! We are compromising ourselves: we threaten mass terror even in the resolutions of he Soviet of Deputies, yet when it comes to action we obstruct the revolutionary initiative of the masses, a quite correct one. This is im-poss-ible! The terrorists will consider us old women. This is wartime above all. We must encourage the energy and mass character of the terror against the counterrevolutionaries, and particularly in Petrograd, the example of which is decisive.

or:

In January and February 1918, radicalized sailors in the Baltic and Black Sea fleets had murdered their officers by the hundreds.

^Russia in Flames: War, Revolution, Civil War, 1914 - 1921, Laura Engelstein

Fleur
Feb 16 2018 16:45

Big No No

I regret to inform you that I'm not feeling especially macho at the moment. I'm wearing a rather pretty floral blouse, which really makes the lavender and i
pink streaks in my hair pop. I am in fact looking like I conform very much to girly gender stereotypes, although I do step out of the binary from time to time.

I didn't particularly realize that expression would be a problem, for which I apologize. How about briefs in a bundle? Any better?

Steven.
Feb 16 2018 16:59
Noa Rodman wrote:
There are 2 English books which altered the official translation (which gives the impression that Lenin speaks only of prostitutes), into one where the sentence turns into a list of prostitutes, former officers and the like

Another thing I don't really get is thinking that saying that he ordered sex workers and other people killed makes it better. I mean would Hitler ordering the killings of Jews and criminals be okay, because he is not just ordering the killing of Jews?

Really you guys are clutching at straws

Uncreative
Feb 16 2018 17:14
Steven. wrote:
Uncreative wrote:
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?

Uncreative, Reddebrek spoke about this translation in detail above. This translation is from Marxists.org, and was written by Leninists, and funded by the Soviet Union.

We have also checked and confirmed the translation with a native Russian speaker: whose comment on the unambiguous nature of the text was pasted above by Mike Harman.

Sure, I know all that, hence my somewhat insincere post. Probably not helpful, sorry.

zugzwang
Feb 16 2018 18:16
Pennoid wrote:
I'm sorry zugzwang, what exactly are you referring to?

Well you never responded in the last thread. Were bolshevik leaders right for suppressing the kronstadt revolt? The kronstadters were not for the restoration of a monarchy; only against the policies of the bolsheviks. A lot of workers and peasants resented the bolshevik government just as much as they did the tsar. If you view the bolshevik government as the flawless "workers' government" then you can easily dismiss any opposition or discontent as counter-revolutionary. Also it's very strange to me that an anarchist (according to your profile) defends Lenin and other bolsheviks, or is interested in securing power in the first place.

Noa Rodman
Feb 16 2018 18:28
Steven wrote:
that saying that he ordered sex workers and other people killed makes it better.

In the sentence Lenin calls to "organise immediately mass terror", then adds the specification what mass terror entails: shooting/deporting hundreds of unreliable people, which can include, just as a random example, also apparently prostitutes.

It would be a strange kind of mass terror which targeted only prostitutes.

And later in the letter Lenin does further specify mass terror, e.g. that mensheviks and other unreliables should be "merely" deported, whereas the graver crime of concealing arms should be punished by execution. So I think the punishment for prostitutes could not be shooting, since even Mensheviks and other unreliables were spared such punishment.

Of course deportation wasn't a light punishment either.

radicalgraffiti
Feb 16 2018 19:27
Noa Rodman wrote:
Steven wrote:
that saying that he ordered sex workers and other people killed makes it better.

In the sentence Lenin calls to "organise immediately mass terror", then adds the specification what mass terror entails: shooting/deporting hundreds of unreliable people, which can include, just as a random example, also apparently prostitutes.

It would be a strange kind of mass terror which targeted only prostitutes.

And later in the letter Lenin does further specify mass terror, e.g. that mensheviks and other unreliables should be "merely" deported, whereas the graver crime of concealing arms should be punished by execution. So I think the punishment for prostitutes could not be shooting, since even Mensheviks and other unreliables were spared such punishment.

Of course deportation wasn't a light punishment either.

lenin wrote:
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.

it looks like lenin ins ordering this because he considers "prostitutes who are making drunkards of the soldiers" to be part of the preparation for " a whiteguard insurrection", at the vary least he must have thought they were making it easier for white guards to act. Unless of cause he is lying about the white guard insurrection and its just and excuse to impose bolshivik control

Pennoid
Feb 16 2018 19:55

Steven,
I mean, if there were fascist whites amassing in the city and our only line of defense was being sabotaged by workers, sex or otherwise, it's a tough call that has to be made, as with strikes that incur the use of scabs. It's not ideal, it's often tragic, and the potential to excess is almost guaranteed, but someone has to get the mobilization in order to effect a defense.

This does appear to be qualitatively distinct in that sense, that it was a situation of more immediate danger than Kronstadt when it was purely a working class protest against Bolshevik power. In the context of combating the enemy it does seem like more drastic measures may be needed.

Uncreative,

That's a nice idea, but it doesn't get us any closer to the truth. I don't speak/read Russian, so I'm left to derive my understanding from those that do. It's not uncommon for translations to result in changed meaning. In one language, certain verbs may take the infinitive and gerund without a change in meaning while sometimes they change the meaning drastically.

Translators are fallible. There are debates about translations in historical literature all the time.

Big No No
Feb 16 2018 20:29
Khawaga wrote:
why not deal with the substance of her argument rather than, in typical masculine style, dismissing something a woman said.*

I... did? Like, there's two more paragraphs after the part you're reacting to. Could it be that, in typical libcom style, you didn't really read what you were reacting to?

You people are severely reaching at this point.

Battlescarred
Feb 16 2018 21:10

Bolshevik fanboy admin: abuse deleted
I'm severely retching at this point.

Khawaga
Feb 16 2018 21:24
Big No No wrote:
I... did? Like, there's two more paragraphs after the part you're reacting to. Could it be that, in typical libcom style, you didn't really read what you were reacting to?

You people are severely reaching at this point.

Nowhere in those two paragraphs did I see anything that recognized what Fleur wrote, but, like a Leninist automaton, repeating yet another "but, but, but...". Nothing saying, sure we should try to avoid mistakes like this from the past. But if you think dealing with argument is just repeating what you've written before ad nauseam, then sure, I guess I didn't read your post.

Fleur
Feb 16 2018 21:33

Big No No :

TBH, you didn't really respond to me because all I actually did was call you a fanboy and somewhat suggest that you ought to maybe get a life. Honestly, I wasn't being that deep. You really should try reading the subtext before you go off on one about defending the October Revolution.

I had decided that the Rick and Morty fandom is the most annoying fandom out there but these Leninists are equally weird and obsessive.

Mike Harman
Feb 16 2018 21:41
Noa Rodman wrote:
There are 2 English books which altered the official translation (which gives the impression that Lenin speaks only of prostitutes), into one where the sentence turns into a list of prostitutes, former officers and the like:

shoot and deport the hundreds of prostitutes who are making drunkards of the soldiers, as well as former officers, etc.

^The Russian Civil War, Evan Mawdsley

He ordered "shooting and deportation of prostitutes who made soldiers drunk,of former officers, and the like".

^p. 156 Terrorism: From Robespierre to the Weather Underground, Albert Parry

Thanks for digging out the alternative translation, shows that even when translated differently the substance remains the same.

Noa Rodman wrote:
On 26 June, he [Lenin] had written bluntly to Petrograd:

'Comrade Zinoviev. Only today we have heard in the Central Committee that the workers in Petrograd wanted to respond to the murder of Volodarski [by an SR]

This is online at Marxists.org from the same collection: https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1918/jun/26gyz.htm

However this makes the terror look like retribution as opposed to anything to do with preventing a Czech assault on Nizhni. Not on this thread, but very much on twitter you have people saying the targets of the terror were 'whites/Czechs', whereas here he's talking about disciplining 'unreliable' people.
Other telegrams related to the 'Hanging order' Red posted:

https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1918/aug/10vvk.htm
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1918/aug/12vvk.htm
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1918/aug/14aym.htm

If you read through the 1918 telegrams, there's plenty more where he's talking about taking the harshest measures against people he merely considered 'unreliable' as opposed to Tsarist.

Like this one on Astrakhan: https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1918/aug/21agec.htm

Big No No
Feb 16 2018 23:38
Khawaga wrote:
Nowhere in those two paragraphs did I see anything that recognized what Fleur wrote

Fleur wrote:
TBH, you didn't really respond to me because all I actually did was call you a fanboy

Priceless.

Khawaga
Feb 17 2018 00:05

Eh, so I read more into Fleur's post than she intended, so what? The author is, after all, dead, and if meaning was inherently given by the written word, what's the point of poetry, literature, and, apropos this thread, squabbling over the minutiae of what Lenin may or may not have meant with his words.

Priceless.

Big No No
Feb 17 2018 00:17

We are now using death of the author to try and take the sting out of our own self-owns.

This site is the gift that keeps on giving.

Fleur
Feb 17 2018 00:20

Khawaga

Yeah, I was more or less playing with Leninbro but I would've thought something like gee, let's not do that thing in any future revolution was more a reasonable response than foot stamping about it. The chatter, indignation and conspiracy theorizing online has been entertaining to watch though.

Honestly, if Leninists think that a missive from Lenin (which has been published and available for years) is sufficient to undermine their ideology, then they must have even less faith in it than I do.

Fleur
Feb 17 2018 00:22

DP

Khawaga
Feb 17 2018 00:55
Fleur wrote:
let's not do that thing in any future revolution was more a reasonable response than foot stamping about it

So, I guess I didn't misinterpret Fleur. After all, it was a simple point that I thought anyone would pick up on, well, but for Big No No.

Quote:
We are now using death of the author to try and take the sting out of our own self-owns.

Eh, it was a recognition that, gasp, I may misinterpret what I read, and being the filthy academic that I am, I made a simple observation. Lighten the fuck up.

DevastateTheAvenues
Feb 18 2018 18:06

Big No No's argument is such a bare fig leaf that I can't even wrap my head around why so many Leninists are rallying around it.

Red Marriot already pointed out early on in the thread that whenever Lenin used "prostitutes" as a term of abuse for political opponents it was preceded by an explicit antecedent, so it was clear who Lenin was referring to. However, a plain reading of the letter shows that "prostitutes" there doesn't refer to anything else, and so it seems to be highly implausible to say it means anything other than that. Every quote of Lenin provided by Big No No supports this; it seems they have been hoist by their own petard, or perhaps I should say "self-owned".

I am half-expecting Leninists to take up the position that "prostitutes" here refers to "former officers and the like", but fortunately the alternative English translations offered by Noa Rodman make it clear that Lenin meant these to be distinct groups.

Pennoid can at least bite the bullet and is prepared to accept that the terror Lenin wanted really did apply to sex workers, as well as others. Leninists (not to say that Pennoid is one) should strive to be at least as consistent if they are going to have a politics that actually engages with the world today, rather than just base their beliefs around one man's century-old moral fits and failures.

I think it is consistent, if objectionable, for Leninists to say that the urgency of a possible insurrection would justify for them the shootings and deportations of sex workers. However, I think Leninists should then demonstrate that such an urgent situation did exist in Nizhny and that such repressive measures would have prevented an uprising, because it otherwise looks like Lenin was jumping the gun. The only information on it that I can immediately find comes from the infamous Black Book of Communism, which says that there was no uprising in Nizhny, but I would be hesitant to accept that without some other corroboration.

However, when the Leninists quickly point out that it is not clear whether the terror Lenin ordered was carried out, I think they let on more than they mean to. It suggests to me that Lenin unilaterally ordered terror in situations which even Leninists today would balk at. This should be a lot for Leninists to chew on; they should ask themselves if the organizational politics they get from Lenin facilitate such a thing and why such terror was acceptable to Lenin in the first place, then ask if that's something that agrees with both them and the proletarian interest.

However, I think that if they do so critically and honestly, then they will either turn away from Leninism or accept that, whatever it is, Leninism is not a proletarian politics. I want to say beforehand that proletarian class rule will certainly have to make despotic inroads against all previous social relations and that the proletarian interest does exist beyond the transient interests of any single proletarian. However, it is of utmost importance that proletarian class rule is understood as the rule of the class, and not merely of a certain section of it or a clique, to be used as a means to abolish the proletariat itself. On this, Leninism clearly fails.

Even in the above letter, the failures of Leninism are demonstrated in microcosm. Rather than proletarian class rule, Lenin and the Leninists substitute the dictatorial rule of a few Bolshevik representatives against the proletariat. While this is not to equate Marxism with communism and the proletarian interest, Hal Draper convincingly argues here that the conception of the dictatorship of the proletariat as the dictatorship of a revolutionary clique, as adopted by Leninism, was exactly the view opposed by Marx and Engels. Their conception of the dictatorship of the proletariat was always as proletarian class rule. Furthermore, this would not be a permanent state of affairs, but merely the means by which the proletariat could seize power so as to abolish all the social relations that kept them proletarians, and therefore abolish themselves as a class. The history, of course, demonstrates the bitter fruits of Leninist rule; proletarians remained proletarians in the Soviet Union, as they have everywhere else. Leninism is, then, at least not authentically Marxist, and it is hard-pressed to make the case that its politics of a revolutionary clique can ever become a proletarian class rule to abolish the proletariat.

The above isn't meant to be a response to Pennoid, but I would like to do that. If the military situation of the communist movement was dire (momentarily putting aside any skepticism regarding whether the communist movement can or should have something like a "military situation" in a future revolution), then I suppose I would have to say that proletarian class rule can probably justifiably be used against proletarians.

I think revolutionaries must necessarily accept such a possibility. If we do not make the absurd step of equating the proletarian interest with the transient interests of any particular proletarian, because we understand the interests of the proletariat as a class is immanent to its role in capitalism rather than the expression of any subjective beliefs, then we'll inevitably run into situations where individual people who are proletarians are opposed to the class interest. My problem is with "someone" deciding when and in what cases to order the terror; I don't want to leave it up to a bunch of cliquish revolutionary sophisticates to decide when to deploy the People's Stick. But I admit that I can't give a good method for how that can be decided.

While I don't want to fetishize democracy, having already said that the proletarian interest is beyond any subjective beliefs of individual proletarians and therefore also beyond democracy, democratic tools at least provide a way to direct political will in organizations of conscious communists. But, if the internal democracy of organizations is what matters, then even Leninists can be "democratic", even if only within their own clique and in an authoritarian manner even then. Yet, I am skeptical of the value in engaging in democracy among those who are not conscious communists, because strict adherence to democratic forms could paralyze our own autonomy and initiative. That is, we become too concerned that people ought decide things democratically to act in their own liberation and in doing so restrain ourselves from taking the necessary actions to liberate ourselves. I am thinking mostly of Guegoire and Perlman's critique of the worker-student action committees and general assembles in France during May '68, but this can be applied even more recently to, say, the Occupy movement and its general assemblies.

To go back to my earlier skepticism, this might well mean that having something like a "military situation" is the death knell for communism at that time. More specifically, that a situation in which using proletarian class rule to advance communism means directing its power against other proletarians who are merely not reliable in the defense, rather than active counter-revolutionaries, might well mean that communism is not in the cards. This is not because it will leave some indelible moral stain or something, but because it would mean that the work of abolishing capitalist social relations has been suspended until the military situation has been resolved. The problem may well be obviated during a genuinely revolutionary situation, as nearly everyone will be consciously revolutionary (though perhaps not as communists). We are not there yet, so I cannot say.

As an aside, I have to say that I find the Twitter Leninists' obsession with owns to be distasteful, but appropriate. They are, after all, just a clique, so they act as one, each one issuing endless denunciations so as to gain favor from their set. It's just that they make the unfortunate step of elevating this to political practice.

Steven.
Feb 18 2018 22:52

Great post

Steven.
Feb 19 2018 19:45

Further on this, a German speaker has a German translation of this (http://ciml.250x.com/archive/lenin/german/lenin_gesammelte_werke/lw35_27...) which they have translated for us into English as follows:

Quote:
TO THE DEPUTY SOVIET OF NISHNI-NOVGOROD
9. VIII. 1918
In Nishni, obviously, a White Guard rebellion is being prepared. All forces must be strained, a triumvirate of dictators has to be established, the mass terror has to be introduced immediately, the hundreds of prostitutes who make the soldiers drunk, the former officers, etc. are to be shot or transported out of the city. One should not hesitate for a moment. One must proceed with all energy: house searches on a large scale. For possession of weapons shooting. Mass expulsion of Mensheviks and unreliable persons.

so this pretty much confirms the English language translation, and our interpretation of this which is that he is clearly ordering that prostitutes and others should be shot or deported.

Furthermore, as others on here have commented, the claim by that on Reddit that Lenin may be using the term "prostitute" to refer to political opponents is just absolute nonsense. Whenever he has used that kind of language he is very clear what he is talking about, saying things like that members of certain Soviets have "prostituted themselves" to capitalist interests. That is clearly not the case here.

jolasmo
Feb 20 2018 11:57
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)

It didn't happen

Quote:
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.

And if it did happen, it wasn't that bad

Quote:
because Lenin put the word "deport" right before prostitutes, and it is hastily written, I would even go further and refer the "shoot" only to the drunken soldiers and former officers:

And if it was, that's not a big deal

Quote:
obviously Lenin's language here is bigoted towards sex workers, and he deserves criticism for it. As I've noted, there are issues with Lenin's attitude to women and to sex work. But this is not the same as wanting to commit, as some have already termed it, a "sex worker purge".

And if it is, it's not his fault

Quote:
and it is hastily written

And if it was, he didn't mean it

Quote:
I'm not sure whether "prostitutes" should be taken literally, it seems he had a little habit of using the word as an insult towards his political opponents.

And if he did... they deserved it

Quote:
I think it was a legitimate opposition to prostitution that he held

Pennoid
Feb 20 2018 12:36

Devestate, that was one of the more useful and thoughtful posts here, thanks.

There's no denying that this presents us with a list of difficult questions (as does every past revolution we're meant to understand or study in order not to repeat their errors).

I think that what you get at (the fact that the proletarian interest is outside any individual or subjective interest) is a key fact that explains what exactly is at stake; and what can go wrong. While it is true that the general class interest in a proletarian state can be known (observed, understood) apart from any particular 'standpoint epistemology', that *ambition* has to "grip the masses" to have any meaningful effect. This requires organizational and societal democracy.

So the general fact of revolutionary terror, and its particular forms, has to be taken into account. A note, too, is that 'revolutionary terror' here sounds like some innovative or special historical circumstance; but it would be worth it to ask how it differs from total war (in the prosecution of a civil war), and why in particular cases. I'm not well read on the theory but I know some literature exists (even aside from Kautsky v. Trotsky).

I also think you're correct to analyze this in terms of one moment in the progressive degeneration of the Bolshevik party and the nature of it's rule.

The bolsheviks seized power with broad working class support and a working class program that sought to inaugurate a 'democratic dictatorship of the the people' (e.g. workers and peasants). The thinking (iirc) was that the proletariat would *lead* the peasantry through something like a managed capitalism toward the development of communism.

They soon lost a great deal of worker and peasant-political support with Brest-Litovsk, and they focused on holding onto political power in the interest of preserving their gains, against all threats (assassination attempts from socialists, whites, etc.) There's no doubt this had real costs both in simple human terms, but also in the long term degeneration of the internal democracy of the party (and across society) and the development of Stalin's rule. I don't think this means we collapse Stalin's policies into those of the Bolsheviks through the Civil War simplistically though.

This document could prompt a fascinating case study in terror, and a means for a discussion about the nature of power, dictatorial rule, proletarian power, the conditions of sex workers in Russia at the time; ideas about the role of sex work in the economy in general etc. etc. So I hope you go through with writing something up or researching it more, we'd likely all benefit.

Steven in the book provided I can't find any source info; e.g. it's translation date, translator, publisher, and so on. Any idea where I can find that?