Putin the Marxist-Leninist

COMMENTARY Progressivism

Putin the Marxist-Leninist

Jun 7, 2022 2 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Lee Edwards, Ph.D.

Distinguished Fellow in Conservative Thought

Lee Edwards is a leading historian of American conservatism and the author or editor of 25 books.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting outside Moscow, Russia on June 1, 2022. MIKHAIL METZEL / SPUTNIK / AFP / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

Marx taught that “war is the midwife of revolutions.” Lenin agreed, declaring that “great historical questions can be solved only by violence.”

An educated Marxist-Leninist such as Putin accepted that there had been more than 100 million victims of communism, an acceptable price to pay to remodel the world.

We can deal effectively with Putin only if we accept how much he is in thrall to Marxism-Leninism.

Sometimes the simplest explanation is the best explanation. You cannot understand Vladimir Putin and his war against Ukraine unless you understand that he is a Marxist-Leninist.

During his school years, Putin read the works of Marx, Engels, and Lenin in his spare time. He came of age in 1973, when the Soviet Union was a superpower and sponsoring Marxist regimes on every continent, advancing Lenin’s dream of a communist world. He joined the KGB in 1987 at age 35 and spent the next 16 years rising in the ranks to lieutenant colonel. In 1984, he was sent to Moscow for additional training at the Yuri Andropov Red Banner Institute. As KGB chairman, Andropov had pushed hard for the Warsaw Pact to crush the 1968 Prague Spring.

For a Marxist-Leninist, war within nations and between nations is inevitable.

Marx taught that “war is the midwife of revolutions.” Lenin agreed, declaring that “great historical questions can be solved only by violence.”

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Mao Zedong, whom Putin surely read, wrote: “Every communist must grasp that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. . . . In fact, we may say that the whole world can be remolded only with a gun.” This is the ideology that molded Putin.

An educated Marxist-Leninist such as Putin accepted that there had been more than 100 million victims of communism, an acceptable price to pay to remodel the world. He accepted the purges that Lenin and Stalin used to cement their rule, the forced famines that eliminated enemies of the state, the forced labor camps in Siberia, the tight control of all media. Putin studied the techniques of agitation and propaganda, applying them in his KGB assignment in Dresden in East Germany during the Cold War.

He resigned from the KGB in 1991 to begin a political career in St. Petersburg, his hometown. He had an aptitude for Machiavellian politics and moved to Moscow to join the Yeltsin administration. He rose quickly. In August 1999, Putin was appointed one of three deputy prime ministers and then the same day was named acting prime minister. He has never relinquished power to this day.

Given his KGB training, it was inevitable that Putin would manipulate elections, rewrite the Russian constitution, imprison and even poison his opponents, close down Memorial and every other NGO that called attention to the crimes of Marxism-Leninism, order the brutal subjugation of Chechnya, seize Crimea, and invade Ukraine.

>>> Putin’s Bloody Leviathan

A leading Russian historian writing about 17th-century Russia indicted it with this telling phrase: “The state swelled and the people shrank.” The same portrait is true of present-day Russia and its president in perpetuity, Vladimir Putin.

In his 2005 address to the nation’s top politicians and parliament, Putin said: “Above all, we should acknowledge that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century.” This is the official Russian translation. The Associated Press translation substituted “catastrophe” for “disaster” and called the breakup “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”

In either translation, Putin laments the passing of the Soviet Union and its empire. As prime minister and president, Putin has moved again and again to build a new Russian empire, most recently in his invasion of Ukraine. We can deal effectively with Putin only if we accept how much he is in thrall to Marxism-Leninism and its core idea that political power grows only out of the barrel of a gun.

This piece originally appeared in The National Review