Lenin in Zurich

LENIN IN ZURICH, by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. (Bodley Head). £3.75.

Sozhenitsyn’s latest book consists of chapters extracted from his panoramic history of the Russian Revolution.

The first is the is the missing chapter 22 of August 1914. The rest comes from the still-to-be-published parts two and three, October 1916 and March 1917.

‘Lenin in Zurich” parallels the other books in that it tells of the fate this relatively unknown Russian revolutionary in the full misery of his obscurity.

Solzhenitsyn’s intention in writing these books is to create a process of deLeninisation among the western intelligentsia. He obviously hopes that the revelations of the barbarity of Bolshevism will have an effect as traumatic as Krushchev’s denunciation of Stalin twenty years ago.

The reader is taken into the soul of Lenin in those years. He is shown as a middle-aged man who had accomplished nothing, a man consumed by the fanatical intensity of revolutionary belief, a robot drowning in revolutionary hate for those who agreed with his intolerance.

Solzhenitsyn paints perhaps the very first human picture of Lenin, the inhuman revolutionary. Since 1917, he has been either deified or crucified. No real picture has emerged through the over-growth of propagandistic imagery. Yet is Solzhenitsyn’s image a true one?

Jews are prominent in Lenin’s circle, yet none is rightly characterised as such. The exception is Parvus, the millionaire financier who believed he was capitalism to aid international revolution.

Born Israel Lazarevich Helphand, he left his Russian home to become a western socialist. He is portrayed as a clever, overbearing Jewish financier who offered Lenin everything to fuel the revolution – money, arms, literature. But Lenin refused because it was more important for him to keep his independence, his superiority over the rest and the myth of a vast, hidden, underground movement.

The image of Parvus is that of the wandering Jew who never acquired citizenship in his 25 years out of Russia. Super-intelligent, his real desire was not to change society itself, but to control the destiny of those changing it through his tremendous financial power. He is shown as the puppeteer of the Russian revolution.

Other Jews cross Lenin’s path. The optimistic cynicism of Karl Radek (né Sobelson) and the vacillating, inept Grisha Zinoviev (né Apfelbaum) are but two.

Jewish Observer 30 April 1976

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