Lenin – a subtle and complex theorist

Image: Sasha Kruglaya


The unavoidable lesson left by Lenin is that it is possible, that it is necessary, to dare to dream of a new world and fight to build it.

This Sunday marks one hundred years since the death of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. He was one of the greatest Marxist thinkers of his generation, a genius political strategist and an admirable human being.

In the West, the hegemonic discourse tries to dress it in the costume of the “bloodthirsty dictator”, a primary supporter of the view that “the ends justify the means”, a Joseph Stalin. The lack of knowledge regarding his thinking is glaring. Even an enlightened liberal intellectual, like Robert Dahl, when he dedicates a few pages to him (in his Democracy and its critics), is nothing more than primary generalizations and makes mistakes as childish as calling him “Nikolai”.

On the orthodox left, he was transformed into a kind of Messiah. His work was as embalmed as his body, becoming part of the body of sacred writings – “Marxism-Leninism” – that could not be questioned, nor critically used, only revered.

But Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was a subtle and complex theorist, whose contributions to the strategy of social transformation, to the understanding of the capitalist State and to the study of imperialism continue to deserve attention. He was also an example of a revolutionary activist, with undivided dedication and an incredible capacity for personal sacrifice.

Far from accepting the simplistic doctrine that the ends justify the means, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was acutely aware of the drama of politics, as enunciated by Machiavelli: the tension between principles and results, between action in the present and responsibility for the future.

In the tortuous process of the outbreak of the October Revolution, Lenin's political genius shone, who at that moment was able to perfectly decipher fortune and fully embody the virtù.

We can only speculate what the development of Soviet Russia would have been without his incapacitation and premature death. We only know that, in his will, he warned against Stalin.

He dedicated his life to the revolution, but he was not a narrow-minded, incomplete human being. I remember a delightful story that Jean Cocteau tells in his interview with Paris Review, when he talks about bohemian life in Paris at the beginning of the last century: “At that time, we all met at Café Rotonde. And a little man with a huge, round forehead and black goatee sometimes used to come in there to have a drink and listen to us talk. And to ‘look at the painters’. Once we asked the little man (he never said anything, just listened) what he did. He said he had a serious intention of overthrowing Russia's government. We all laughed, because, of course, we had the same intention. That was how it was back then! It was Lenin.”

He was not a saint – no one who dedicates himself to political action can afford to be one. He was right and wrong, like all of us. The revolution he commanded lost its way and perished in a melancholy way. But we cannot erase its main lesson: that it is possible, that it is necessary, to dare to dream of a new world and fight to build it.

* Luis Felipe Miguel He is a professor at the Institute of Political Science at UnB. Author, among other books, of Democracy in the capitalist periphery: impasses in Brazil (authentic).

Originally posted on the author's social media.

the earth is round exists thanks to our readers and supporters.
Help us keep this idea going.

See this link for all articles


  • About artificial ignoranceEugenio Bucci 15/06/2024 By EUGÊNIO BUCCI: Today, ignorance is not an uninhabited house, devoid of ideas, but a building full of disjointed nonsense, a goo of heavy density that occupies every space
  • Franz Kafka, libertarian spiritFranz Kafka, libertarian spirit 13/06/2024 By MICHAEL LÖWY: Notes on the occasion of the centenary of the death of the Czech writer
  • Introduction to “Capital” by Karl Marxred triangular culture 02/06/2024 By ELEUTÉRIO FS PRADO: Commentary on the book by Michael Heinrich
  • The society of dead historyclassroom similar to the one in usp history 16/06/2024 By ANTONIO SIMPLICIO DE ALMEIDA NETO: The subject of history was inserted into a generic area called Applied Human and Social Sciences and, finally, disappeared into the curricular drain
  • Impasses and solutions for the political momentjose dirceu 12/06/2024 By JOSÉ DIRCEU: The development program must be the basis of a political commitment from the democratic front
  • Strengthen PROIFESclassroom 54mf 15/06/2024 By GIL VICENTE REIS DE FIGUEIREDO: The attempt to cancel PROIFES and, at the same time, turn a blind eye to the errors of ANDES management is a disservice to the construction of a new representation scenario
  • The strike at federal Universities and Institutescorridor glazing 01/06/2024 By ROBERTO LEHER: The government disconnects from its effective social base by removing those who fought against Jair Bolsonaro from the political table
  • A myopic logicRED MAN WALKING _ 12/06/2024 By LUIS FELIPE MIGUEL: The government does not have the political will to make education a priority, while it courts the military or highway police, who do not move a millimeter away from the Bolsonarism that they continue to support
  • Hélio Pellegrino, 100 years oldHelio Pellegrino 14/06/2024 By FERNANDA CANAVÊZ & FERNANDA PACHECO-FERREIRA: In the vast elaboration of the psychoanalyst and writer, there is still an aspect little explored: the class struggle in psychoanalysis
  • Volodymyr Zelensky's trapstar wars 15/06/2024 By HUGO DIONÍSIO: Whether Zelensky gets his glass full – the US entry into the war – or his glass half full – Europe’s entry into the war – either solution is devastating for our lives