Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known by his pen name Lenin, is one of the world-renowned revolutionaries and communists.
It is unfortunate that some people, especially those who are responsible for tormenting, exploitation, and oppression, expect people they wrong to seek their validation as to who must be and not be written about. It is natural to differ with a person on ideology, system, and approach, but that does not mean it must not be written about, especially if you are or claim to be an historian.
But it is understandable if you were an historian that was part of the poisonous propaganda machine of the racist white minority apartheid regime or the bigger master from the West.
Perhaps that is how you obtained your PhD and got awarded a professorship.
The journey Lenin embarked on as part of the body collective of his Bolshevik Party was not an easy one, inside the Soviet Union and beyond.
There could be many reasons for that, but this could be contextualised into internal and external factors.
His party the Bolshekis was challenging the conservative and reactionary Czarist Regime (Romanov family). He kept on fleeing his country, Russia. He was smuggled into Russia by Germany.
As a result, he had no choice but to enter “expensive” treaties with some countries. With the first one, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in 1918, the Soviet Union with the Central Powers led by Germany, Soviet Union lost a lot: occupied territories, industrial lands of coalfields, and railways.
Over and above the Soviet Union had to pay Germany huge war reparations. The Central Powers took advantage of the fact that the new Soviet Union was too weak to survive a continuation of the war.
After such a huge loss, the Soviet Union had to sign another costly treaty again, the Treaty of Riga with Poland in 1921 losing territories again. The same applies with Poland, the Soviet Union that was confronted by a lot of domestic challenges could not afford also fighting an external enemy.
Lenin and his party started the revolution when the reactionary Romanov family held the reins of power. Lenin, just like any other human being, was not perfect, therefore it is fair to summarise him by looking at the following:
The downside was the use of excessive force to get co-operation and the development of the country.
As a thinker, Lenin contributed to communism as espoused by Marx Marxism. Lenin’s contribution to Marxism led to what is known as Marxism-Leninism. His addition, he believed in practising Marxism through adding practical steps.
He believed the working class cannot automatically be political by waging their battles with employers. He therefore came up with the solution and a vehicle for making Marxism move forward – the party.
This is a body of intelligentsia, a vanguard, to guide the revolution by coming up with a revolutionary theory. This was talking about a saying that “Action without thought is as blind as thought without action is sterile” (Mokgethi Motlhabi, 1984).
Compared to many countries who fought a liberation struggle, in South Africa the communist party, known as the South African Communist Party (SACP), was the first non-racial political formation in South Africa.
Jointly with the ANC they formed the liberation army, uMKhonto weSizwe. This was after realising that there was no other option to the escalating repression from the ruthless white-minority evil apartheid regime. After killing the people without weapons in Sharpeville and Langa (Cape Town) instead of being ashamed, the apartheid regime banned political organisations, the ANC, and the PAC.
As a revolutionary, Lenin laid a solid foundation for the attainment of freedom in many countries especially in Africa. This is because the liberation movements, directly and indirectly, got support from the Soviet Union he founded.
* Ndabeni is a former history tutor at UWC and a former teacher at Bulumko Senior Secondary School in Khayelitsha.