Sunday, November 6, 2011

Was Vladimir Lenin a Class Warrior?

Class wars have always proceeded armed conflict, such as civil wars, world wars, national uprisings, revolutions, anarchy, and mass genocide. The downfall of empires and nations has always manifested itself from the inequitable division of wealth and resources since the dawn of mankind, until this very day.

From the earliest tribal chiefs, to the ancient monarchs, kings, and up to the last tsars, force was always used to oppress the masses while gathering, collecting, storing, concentrating, and hoarding the wealth -- and the control of the natural resources -- principally for use by the people who ruled.

If the masses rose up in revolt, they were usually killed.

In the United States, an economic system of government called "capitalism" was also used to concentrate the wealth, but at the same time, avoid mass uprisings. For over 200 years this system seemed to work much better than the monarchies and aristocracies of Europe, because it allowed the people to believe they were self-ruled. But eventually, like all forms of government, capitalism also broke down with the human condition called greed, found in any other plutocracy and oligarchy.

Another such failed policy of economics to restore this unjust balance of power and control of wealth was first attempted with the use of a system of government called "socialism". Today one might think that Rupert Murdoch and his commentators at Fox News believed that America's form of government and economics (and tax laws) were also somehow "socialistic" back in the 1950s and 60s. Because in 2011 Americans began asking to tax the millionaires more, and to stop sending their jobs abroad for higher corporate profits - like has happened since the middle-class had peaked in 1979. Today the income disparity is as vast it was before the Great Depression during the 1930s.

But still, as we've seen thus far, just like with capitalism, the first attempts with socialism had also failed, and still we've learned nothing at all during our entire existence. The inequitable and unjust division of wealth, power, and natural resources still continues with the ruling class and political elite, all throughout the world. A century ago Vladimir Lenin tried to change this. But the forces at work then are still governing our societies today, the banks*.

"It is absurd to control and regulate deliveries of grain, or the production and distribution of goods generally, without controlling and regulating bank operations" - Lenin 1917

* Today under Russian law, half of the Central Bank of The Russian Federation's profits has to be channeled into the federal budget. And payments from the government-owned fuel and energy sector in the form of customs duties and taxes accounted for nearly half of Russia's federal budget's revenues from Russia's natural resources (unlike the banking and oil revenues in the United States, which are concentrated into the pockets of a few private individuals).

In May of 1887, when Lenin was 17 years old, his eldest brother Aleksandr Ulyanov was hanged for participating in an assassination attempt against the tsar, Alexander III. His sister, Anna Ulyanova, who was also arrested with his brother Aleksandr, was then banished to a family estate. These events helped transform Lenin into a "political radical".

Lenin studied law and read the works of Karl Marx* and Friedrich Engels**. He studied independently and earned a law degree; at that time, he first read Das Kapital. Three years later, in 1890, he was permitted to study at the University of Saint Petersburg. In January 1892, he was awarded a first class diploma in law; moreover, he was an intellectually distinguished student in the classical languages of Latin and Greek, and the modern languages of German, French, and English.

* Karl Heinrich Marx developed the socio-political theory of Marxism. Capitalism, according to Marxist theory, can no longer sustain the living standards of the population due to its need to compensate for falling rates of profit by driving down wages, cutting social benefits and pursuing military aggression. A socialist economy would not base production on the accumulation of capital, but would instead base production and economic activity on the criteria of satisfying human needs.

* * Friedrich Engels was a German industrialist and father of Marxist theory, alongside Karl Marx. In 1845 he published The Condition of the Working Class in England, based on personal observations and research. In 1848 he produced with Marx The Communist Manifesto and later he supported Marx financially to do research and write Das Kapital. After Marx's death Engels organized Marx's notes on the Theories of Surplus Value.

Vladimir Lenin, now a Russian Marxist revolutionary, was an intelligent and conscientious student that loved playing chess. He became a voracious reader, enjoying the writings of Alexander Pushkin, Ivan Turgenev, Nikolay Nekrasov, and Leo Tolstoy*.

* Leo Tolstoy was the Russian writer who wrote the novel War and Peace, a story about Napoleon Bonaparte's invasion of Russia in 1812. Napoleon had threatened the Emperor of Russia, Alexander I, with serious consequences if he formed an alliance with Britain.

Leo Tolstoy also wrote the novel Anna Karenina; that and War and Peace are acknowledged as two of the greatest novels of all time. He also became noted as a moral thinker and social reformer.

Leo Tolstoy's literal interpretation of the ethical teachings of Jesus, centering on the Sermon on the Mount, caused him in later life to become a fervent Christian anarchist and anarcho-pacifist. His ideas on nonviolent resistance, expressed in such works as The Kingdom of God Is Within You, were to have a profound impact on such pivotal twentieth-century figures as Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Lenin practiced law in the Volga River port of Samara for a few years, mostly land-ownership cases, from which he derived political insight to the Russian peasants' socio-economic condition; in 1893, he moved to St Petersburg, and practiced Marxist revolutionary propaganda.

Lenin had noted the growth of class division amongst the peasants with a growing division between a landholding rural bourgeoise and a mostly landless rural proletariat recruited from a diminishing middle peasantry. Lenin saw a community of interest between the rural and urban proletariat and the possibility of a worker peasant alliance against the representatives of capital.

In 1895, he founded the League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class, the consolidation of the city's Marxist groups; as an embryonic revolutionary party, the League was active among the Russian labor organizations. On December 7, 1895, Lenin was arrested for plotting against the Tsar Alexander III, and was then imprisoned for fourteen months in solitary confinement in Cell 193 of the St. Petersburg Remand Prison.

In February 1897, he was exiled to eastern Siberia. In July 1898, Lenin married the socialist activist Nadezhda Krupskaya, and in April 1899, he published the book The Development of Capitalism in Russia, under the pseudonym of Vladimir Ilyin; one of the thirty theoretical works he wrote in exile. In July 1898, Lenin married Nadezhda Krupskaya. At the end of his exile in 1900, Lenin left Russia and lived in Munich (1900–1902), London (1902–1903) and Geneva (1903–1905).

During Lenin's exile the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party ("RSDLP"), the predecessor to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, was formed in 1898. The goal of RSDLP was to change the economic and political system in the Russian Empire through a proletarian revolution according to Marxist doctrine. Alongside their political activities, RSDLP and other revolutionary groups (such as anarchists and Socialist Revolutionaries) practiced a range of militant operations, including "expropriations", a euphemism for armed robberies of government or private funds to support revolutionary activities.

In 1903 a longstanding ideological split developed within the party between the Bolshevik faction, led by Lenin, and the Menshevik faction, led by Martov. These terms "Bolshevik" (meaning "majority") and "Menshevik" (meaning "minority") derive from the narrow Bolshevik electoral defeat of the Mensheviks to the party's newspaper (Iskra) editorial board, and to central committee leadership.

The break partly originated from Lenin's book What Is to Be Done? (published in 1902), which proposed a smaller party organization of professional revolutionaries, with Iskra (the newspaper) in a primary ideological role.

Another issue which divided the two factions was Lenin's support of a worker-peasant alliance to overthrow the Tsarist regime, as opposed to the Menshevik's support of an alliance between the working classes and the liberal bourgeoisie to achieve the same aim (whilst a smaller third faction, led by Trotsky, espoused the view that the working class alone was the instrument of revolutionary change—needing no help from either the peasants or the middle classes.)

The start of the Russian revolution in December 1904 began with a strike at the Putilov plant (a railway and artillery supplier) in Saint Petersburg. Sympathy strikes in other parts of the city raised the number of strikers to over 80,000 (which later ended in what's known as Bloody Sunday.)

The Tsar (Nicholas II) appointed a government commission "to enquire without delay into the causes of discontent among the workers in the city of St Petersburg and its suburbs" in view of the strike movement. The commission was also meant to have included workers’ delegates elected. Elections of the workers delegates were, however, blocked by the socialists who wanted to divert the workers from the elections to the armed struggle.

A few days prior to the Bloody Sunday, the leader, a priest named George Gapon, informed the government of the forthcoming procession to the tsar's Winter Palace, to hand a petition to the Tsar. There was never any thought that the Tsar, who had left the capital on the advice of the ministers, would actually be asked to meet Gapon; and the suggestion that some other member of the Imperial Family receive the petition was rejected.

Finally, informed by the Prefect of Police that he lacked the men to pluck George Gapon from among his followers and place him under arrest, the newly appointed Minister of the Interior and his colleagues decided to bring additional troops into the city for control.

On Sunday, January 22, 1905, Gapon began his march. Locking arms, the workers marched peacefully through the streets. Some carried religious icons and banners, as well as national flags and portraits of the Tsar. As they walked they sang religious hymns and the Imperial anthem God Save The Tsar. At 2 PM, all of the converging processions were scheduled to arrive at the tsar's Winter Palace.

There was no single confrontation with the troops. Throughout the city, at bridges on strategic boulevards, the marchers found their way blocked by lines of infantry, backed by Cossacks and Hussars. Then the soldiers opened fire on the crowd.

The official number of victims was 92 dead and several hundred wounded. George Gapon vanished and the other leaders of the march were seized. Expelled from the capital, they circulated through the empire, increasing the casualties. As bullets riddled their icons, their banners and their portraits of Nicholas, the people shrieked, "The Tsar will not help us!"

The event became known as Bloody Sunday, and is usually considered the start of the active phase of the revolution.

By the time the October Manufesto was issued on October 17, 1905, over 2 million workers were on strike. The manifesto addressed the unrest in Russia and pledged to grant civil liberties to the people, including personal immunity, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, uncensored newspapers and a decree that no law should come into force without the consent of the state Duma. The manifesto was a precursor of the first ever Russian Constitution.

However, the Marxists maintained that the Tsar Nicholas had really only made a small concession. The Duma was only a shell of democracy as it could not pass laws without the approval of the Tsar and freedom of speech was heavily regulated.

In November 1905, Lenin returned to Russia ending his exile to support the 1905 Russian Revolution. In 1906, he was elected to the Presidium of the RSDLP; and shuttled between Finland and Russia, but resumed his exile in December 1907, after the Tsarist defeat of the revolution and after the scandal of the 1907 Tiflis bank robbery.

The 1907 Tiflis bank robbery was an armed robbery by Bolshevik revolutionaries of a bank cash shipment in the Georgian city of Tiflis. The robbery occurred on June 26, 1907 in Yerevan Square (now Freedom Square). The bank stagecoach was attacked while transporting money between the Post Office and the Tiflis branch of the State Bank of the Russian Empire. The robbers attacked the bank stagecoach and the surrounding security forces using bombs and guns in the crowded city square resulting in the deaths of forty people and the injuring of fifty others. The robbers escaped the attack with 341,000 rubles (estimated as US $3.4 million in 2008) from the robbery.

The robbery was planned and/or executed by many high-level Bolsheviks (including Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin) to fund their revolutionary activities. The resulting bad press from this incident was later used against Lenin and Stalin, both of whom tried to distance themselves from the robbery. (During the Soviet era, Yerevan Square was renamed Lenin Square, with a statue to the revolutionary leader.)

Until the February and October revolutions of 1917, Lenin lived in Western Europe, where, despite relative poverty, he developed Leninism—urban Marxism adapted to agrarian Russia, reversing Karl Marx's economic/political prescription, allowing for a dynamic revolution led by a vanguard party of professional revolutionaries.

In 1909, to disambiguate philosophic doubts about the proper practical course of a socialist revolution, Lenin published Materialism and Empirio-criticism, which became a philosophic foundation of Marxism-Leninism. Throughout exile, Lenin traveled throughout Europe and participated in socialist activities (the 1912 Prague Party Conference).

In 1914, when World War One broke out, Lenin opposed the Great War (3.3 million Russians would be killed in World War I) because the peasants and workers would be fighting the bourgeoisie's "imperialist war"—one that ought be transformed to an international civil war, between the classes.

At the beginning of the war, the Austrians briefly detained him in Poronin, his town of residence; on September 5, 1914 Lenin moved to neutral Switzerland, residing first at Bern, then at Zürich.

In the spring of 1916, while in Zürich, Lenin wrote Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, and applied those principals to the new circumstances of the First World War (1914–18) fought between the German and the British empires—which exemplified the imperial capitalist competition, which was the thesis of his book.

This thesis posited that the merging of banks and industrial cartels gave rise to finance capital—the basis of imperialism, the zenith of capitalism. To wit, in pursuing greater profits than the home market can offer, business exports capital, which, in turn, leads to the division of the world, among international, monopolist firms, and to European states colonizing large parts of the world, in support of their businesses. Imperialism, thus, is an advanced stage of capitalism based upon the establishment of monopolies, and upon the exportation of capital (rather than goods), managed with a global financial system, of which colonialism is one feature.

In accordance with this thesis, Lenin believed that Russia was being used as a tool of French and British capitalist imperialism in World War I, and that its participation in the conflict was at the behest of those interests.

In February of 1917 popular demonstrations in Russia, provoked by the hardship of war, forced Tsar Nicholas II to abdicate. The monarchy was replaced by an uneasy political relationship between, on the one hand, a Provisional Government of parliamentary figures and, on the other, an array of "Soviets" (most prominently the Petrograd Soviet): revolutionary councils directly elected by workers, soldiers and peasants. Lenin was still in exile in Zurich.

On March 31 the Swiss Communist Fritz Platten obtained permission from the German Foreign Minister through his ambassador in Switzerland for Lenin and other Russian exiles to travel through Germany to Russia in a sealed one-carriage train.

Looking out of the carriage window as they passed through wartime Germany, the exiles were struck by the total absence of grown-up men. Only women, teenagers and children could be seen at the wayside stations, on the fields, and in the streets of the towns. Once in Sweden the group traveled by train to Stockholm and then finally returned to Russia.

Lenin was formally welcomed by the Menshevik Chairman of the Petrograd Soviet. But Lenin pointedly turned to the crowd instead to address it on the international importance of the Russian Revolution:

"The piratical imperialist war is the beginning of civil war throughout Europe. The world-wide Socialist revolution has already dawned ... Germany is seething. Any day now the whole of European capitalism may crash. Sailors, comrades, we have to fight for a socialist revolution, to fight until the proletariat wins full victory! Long live the worldwide socialist revolution!"

Lenin argued that this socialist revolution would be achieved by the Soviets taking power from the parliamentary Provisional Government. To achieve this, Lenin argued, the Bolsheviks' immediate task was to campaign diligently among the Russian people to persuade them of the need for Soviet power:

" long as this government yields to the influence of the bourgeoisie, to present a patient, systematic, and persistent explanation of the errors of their tactics, an explanation especially adapted to the practical needs of the masses."

Lenin's "April Theses" were more radical than virtually anything Lenin's fellow revolutionaries had heard. Previous Bolshevik policy had been like that, of the Mensheviks in this respect, Russia was ready only for bourgeois, not socialist revolution.

Stalin and Kamenev, who had returned from exile in Siberia in mid-March and taken control of the Bolshevik newspaper Pravda, had been campaigning for support for the Provisional Government. When Lenin presented his Theses to a joint RSDLP meeting, he was booed by the Mensheviks. Boris Bogdanov called them "the ravings of a madman".

Through his study of worldwide politics and economics, Lenin came to view Russian politics in international perspective. In the conditions of the First World War, Lenin believed that, although Russian capitalism was underdeveloped, a socialist revolution in Russia could spark revolution in the more advanced nations of Europe, which could then help Russia achieve economic and social development. A. J. P. Taylor argued:

"Lenin made his revolution for the sake of Europe, not for the sake of Russia, and he expected Russia's preliminary revolution to be eclipsed when the international revolution took place. Lenin did not invent the iron curtain. On the contrary, it was invented against him by the anti-revolutionary Powers of Europe." (The European banks)

In this way, Lenin moved away from the previous Bolshevik policy of pursuing only bourgeois revolution in Russia, and towards the position of his fellow Russian revolutionary (Leon Trotsky) and his theory of permanent revolution, which may have influenced Lenin at this time. Controversial as it was in April 1917, the program of the April Theses made the Bolshevik party a political refuge for Russians disillusioned with the Provisional Government and the war

The July Days refers to events in 1917 that took place in Petrograd, Russia when soldiers and industrial workers engaged in spontaneous demonstrations against the Russian Provisional Government. The Bolsheviks tried to provide leadership to the demonstrations. The military attacked the peaceful demonstration and engaged in repression against the Bolsheviks. Lenin went into hiding, while other leaders were arrested. The outcome of the July Days represented a temporary decline in the growth of Bolshevik power and influence in the period before the October Revolution. Lenin had later argued in a newspaper article in September 1917:

"The peaceful development of any revolution is, generally speaking, extremely rare and difficult. But a peaceful development of the revolution is possible and probable if all power is transferred to the Soviets. The struggle of parties for power within the Soviets may proceed peacefully, if the Soviets are made fully democratic."

The October Revolution (Red October) was a political revolution and a part of the Russian Revolution of 1917. It took place with an armed insurrection in Petrograd and overthrew the Russian Provisional Government and gave the power to the local soviets dominated by Bolsheviks. Bolshevik Red Guards began the takeover of government buildings on October 24, 1917.

Lenin had returned from Finland and directed the Provisional Government's deposition and the storming of the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg (from 1732 to 1917 the Winter Palace was the official residence of the Russian monarchs.)

The October Revolution had been relatively peaceful. The revolutionary forces already had de facto control of the capital, thanks to the defection of the city garrison. Few troops had stayed to defend the Provisional Government in the Winter Palace. Most citizens had simply continued about their daily business while the Provisional Government was actually overthrown.

Winter Palace

The Alexander Palace is known as the favorite residence of the last Russian Emperor, Nicholas II, and his family (the Romanov family) and their initial place of imprisonment after Lenin's revolution that overthrew the ruling Romanov dynasty in early 1917. Nicholas II, his wife, his son, his four daughters, the family's medical doctor, the Tsar's valet, the Empress' lady-in-waiting, and the family's cook were killed in the same room by the Bolsheviks on the night of July 16/17, 1918.

Red Terror: In response to Fanya Kaplan's failed assassination of Lenin on 30 August 1918, and the successful assassination of the Petrograd Cheka chief Moisei Uritsky, Stalin proposed to Lenin "open and systematic mass terror against those responsible". During the Red Terror, the Cheka (the first of a succession of Soviet state security organizations) carried out an estimated 250,000 summary executions of "enemies of the people".

And there followed the struggles of the Russian Civil War (1917–1922) and the creation of the Soviet Union in 1922.

The six-year long White–Red civil war, the war communism, the famine of 1921 (which killed an estimated 5 million), and foreign military intervention reduced much of Russia to ruin, and provoked rebellion against the Bolsheviks, the greatest being the Tambov rebellion (1919–21).

After the March 1921 left-wing Kronstadt Rebellion mutiny, Lenin replaced war communism with the New Economic Policy (NEP), and successfully rebuilt industry and agriculture. The NEP was his pragmatic recognition of the political and economic realities, despite being a tactical, ideological retreat from the socialist ideal.

The results of the civil war were momentous. Soviet demographer Boris Urlanis estimated total number of men killed in action in Civil War and Polish-Soviet war as 300,000 (125,000 in the Red Army, 175,500 White armies and Poles) and total number of military personnel died from disease (on both sides) as 450,000.

Some 300,000–500,000 Cossacks were killed or deported during Decossackization, out of a population of around three million.

An estimated 100,000 Jews were killed in Ukraine, mostly by the White Army (a loose confederation of Anti-Communist counter-revolutionary forces.)

At the end of the Civil War, the Russian SFSR was exhausted and near ruin. The droughts of 1920 and 1921, as well as the 1921 famine, worsened the disaster still further. Disease had reached pandemic proportions, with 3,000,000 dying of typhus alone in 1920.

Millions more were also killed by widespread starvation, wholesale massacres by both sides, and pogroms against Jews in Ukraine and southern Russia. By 1922, there were at least 7,000,000 street children in Russia as a result of nearly 10 years of devastation from the Great War (WWI) and the civil war.

Another one to two million people, known as the White émigrés, fled Russia, some through the Far East, others west into the newly independent Baltic countries. These émigrés included a large part of the educated and skilled population of Russia.

The Russian economy was devastated by the war, with factories and bridges destroyed, cattle and raw materials pillaged, mines flooded, and machines damaged. The industrial production value descended to one seventh of the value of 1913, and agriculture to one third. According to the newspaper Pravda:

"The workers of the towns and some of the villages choke in the throes of hunger. The railways barely crawl. The houses are crumbling. The towns are full of refuse. Epidemics spread and death strikes—industry is ruined."

War Communism saved the Soviet government during the Civil War, but much of the Russian economy had ground to a standstill. The peasants responded to requisitions by refusing to till the land. By 1921, cultivated land had shrunk to 62% of the pre-war area, and the harvest yield was only about 37% of normal. The number of horses declined from 35 million in 1916 to 24 million in 1920, and cattle from 58 to 37 million. The exchange rate with the U.S. dollar declined from two rubles in 1914 to 1,200 in 1920.

With the end of the war, the Communist Party no longer faced an acute military threat to its existence and power. However, the perceived threat of another intervention, combined with the failure of socialist revolutions in other countries, most notably the German Revolution, contributed to the continued militarization of Soviet society. Although Russia experienced extremely rapid economic growth in the 1930s, the combined effect of World War I and the Civil War left a lasting scar in Russian society, and had permanent effects on the development of the Soviet Union.

As the British historian Orlando Figes put it, at the root of the White Russians' defeat was a failure of politics, more precisely their own dismal failure to break with the ugly past of the oppressive Tsarist régime.

The mental strains of leading a revolution, governing, and fighting a civil war aggravated the physical debilitation consequent to the wounds Lenin received from his attempted assassination. Upon returning to St. Petersburg in May 1922, Lenin suffered the first of three strokes, which left him unable to speak for weeks, and severely hampered motion in his right side; by June, he had substantially recovered.

Lenin reported that the "unlimited authority" concentrated in Stalin was unacceptable, and suggested that comrades think about a way of removing him from his post as Secretary-General.

By August he resumed limited duties, delivering three long speeches in November. In December 1922, he suffered the second stroke that partly paralyzed his right side, he then withdrew from active politics.

In March 1923, he suffered the third stroke that rendered him mute and bed-ridden until his death on January 21, 1924 -- when he was 53 years old.

In the four days that the Bolshevik Leader Vladimir Ilyich Lenin lay in state, more than 900,000 mourners viewed his body in the Hall of Columns before being laid to rest in his tomb in Red Square. Three days after his death, the city of Petrograd was renamed Leningrad in his honor, so remaining until 1991, when the USSR dissolved.

Vladimir Lenin, April 22, 1870 – January 21, 1924

When Lenin died, Stalin ordered the best doctors and scientists to come up with a scheme whereby they could preserve Lenin's body. This scheme was successful and Lenin's mummy was placed in a specially constructed crypt on Red Square.

Joseph Stalin took the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee from 1922 until his death in 1953. He consolidated his control of the Communist Party and the USSR. In 1928, Stalin replaced Lenin's New Economic Policy with a highly centralized command economy and Five-Year Plans, launching a period of rapid industrialization and economic collectivization in the countryside. As a result, the USSR was transformed from a largely agrarian society into a great industrial power, and the basis was provided for its emergence as the world's second largest economy after World War II.

However, during this period of rapid economic and social changes, millions of people were sent to penal labor camps, including many political convicts, and millions were deported and exiled to remote areas of the Soviet Union. The initial upheaval in the changing agricultural sector disrupted food production in the early 1930s, contributing to the catastrophic Soviet famine of 1932–1933, one of the last major famines in Russia. In 1937–38, a campaign against former members of the communist opposition, potential rivals in the party, and other alleged enemies of the regime culminated in the Great Purge, a period of mass repression in which hundreds of thousands of people were executed, including Red Army leaders convicted in coup d'état plots.

Researchers before the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union attempting to count the number of people killed under Stalin's regime produced estimates ranging from 3 to 60 million.

(Photo below) When Stalin died, his body was also preserved and he was placed in the crypt alongside Lenin.

Stalin had been a dictator and a tyrant. Yet he presented himself as the Father of Peoples, a wise leader, and the continuer of Lenin's cause. After his death, people began to acknowledge that he was responsible for the deaths of millions of their own countrymen.

Nikita Khrushchev, first secretary of the Communist Party (1953-1964) and premier of the Soviet Union (1958-1964), spearheaded this movement against the false memory of Stalin. Khrushchev's policies became known as "de-Stalinization." On February 24-25, 1956, three years after Stalin's death, Khrushchev gave a speech at the Twentieth Party Congress that crushed the aura of greatness that had surrounded Stalin. In this "Secret Speech," Khrushchev revealed many of the horrible atrocities committed by Stalin.

Five years later, it was time to physically remove Stalin from a place of honor. At the Twenty-second Party Congress in October 1961, an old, devoted Bolshevik woman, Dora Abramovna Lazurkina stood up and said:

"My heart is always full of Lenin. Comrades, I could survive the most difficult moments only because I carried Lenin in my heart, and always consulted him on what to do. Yesterday I consulted him. He was standing there before me as if he were alive, and he said: "It is unpleasant to be next to Stalin, who did so much harm to the party."

This speech had been pre-planned yet it was still very effective. Khrushchev followed by reading a decree ordering the removal of Stalin's remains.

The further retention in the mausoleum of the sarcophagus with the bier of J. V. Stalin shall be recognized as inappropriate since the serious violations by Stalin of Lenin's precepts, abuse of power, mass repressions against honorable Soviet people, and other activities in the period of the personality cult make it impossible to leave the bier with his body in the mausoleum of V. I. Lenin..

A few days later, Stalin's body was quietly removed from the mausoleum. There were no ceremonies and no fanfare. About 300 feet from the mausoleum, Stalin's body was buried near other minor leaders of the Revolution. Stalin's body was placed near the Kremlin wall, half-hidden by trees. Krushchev ordered thick layers of concrete to be placed over the tomb so that Stalin could never rise again

The Lenin mausoleum is still open today, but since the fall of communism there is much discussion about whether to dismantle it and bury Lenin's corpse in a less conspicuous tomb. Vladimir Putin opposes this, pointing out that a reburial of Lenin would imply that generations of citizens had observed false values during 70 years of Soviet rule.

During Putin's presidency (from 2000 to 2008), Russia's economy bounced back from crisis, growing for nine straight years and seeing GDP increase by 72% in PPP. Poverty decreased by more than 50%, and average monthly salaries increase from $80 to $640. These achievements were ascribed to strong macroeconomic management, important fiscal policy reforms and a confluence of high oil prices (from a nationalize oil industry), surging capital inflows and access to low-cost external financing.

Putin's second term saw the continuation of the criminal prosecution of Russia's richest man, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, President of Yukos, for fraud and tax evasion. The Russian government had argued that Khodorkovsky was engaged in corrupting a large segment of the Duma to prevent changes in the tax code aimed at taxing windfall profits and closing offshore tax evasion vehicles. (Sounds like our Koch brothers.)

Khodorkovsky's arrest was met positively by the Russian public, who see the oligarchs as thieves who were unjustly enriched and robbed the country of its natural wealth (Sounds like Exxon-Mobil).

Many of the initial privatizations, including that of Yukos, was seen by western media as a sign of a broader shift toward a system normally described as "state capitalism". Maybe the U.S. could use a little of that with our banking and oil industries.

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