Sunday, 4 March 2018

Teffi on Lenin

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'As an orator, Lenin did not carry the crowd with him; he did not set a crowd on fire, or whip it up into a frenzy. He was not like Kerensky who would make a crowd fall in love with him and shed tears of ecstasy. I myself witnessed such tears in the eyes of soldiers and workers as they showered Kerensky's car with flowers on Marinsky Square. Lenin simply battered away with a blunt instrument at the darkest corner of people's souls, where greed, spite and cruelty lay hidden. He would batter away and get the answer he wanted... 
“Yes, we'll loot and pillage—and murder too!” 
Naturally, he had no friends or favourites. He didn't see anybody as a human being. And he had a fairly low opinion of human nature. Lenin didn't even seem to look on himself as a human being— he was merely a servant of a political idea. Possessed maniacs of this kind are truly terrifying. But, as they say, history's victors are never judged.  
Or, as somebody once said in response to these words, 
“They may not be judged, but they do often get strung up without a trial."'

Teffi was a Russian novelist of whom I had not heard until I stumbled just now on this radio programme, where the philosopher John Gray talks about her. He thinks her comparable to Chekhov. Her memoirs are here.

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