Your RDA of Irony

On This Day in 1918

Fanny Kaplan nearly killed Lenin. A member of a political party more radical than the Bolsheviks, Kaplan gunned down the Soviet leader. He survived but never recovered. (Kaplan’s execution was an immediate success.)

The once robust Lenin died in 1924, at the age of 53; and the conniving, paranoid Stalin began his ascent. This is one of the great “what ifs” of history. If Kaplan had killed Lenin, the Bolshevik Revolution would have collapsed; Russia likely would have been ruled by a surviving cousin of the imperial family or a Slavic version of Francisco Franco. Stalin would have returned to his previous outlet for sadism as a newspaper editor.

If Kaplan had not tried to kill Lenin, he might have lived another 20 years, Stalin would have stayed in middle management and some 20 million people would have died only of Soviet health care.

  1. Hal Gordon says:

    Eugene — It does not necessarily follow that if Lenin had lived another 20 years that 20 million people would not have been exterminated. Lenin had no scruples about mass maurder. I remember attending a talk by historian Robert Conquest during the 1980s. He was most eloquent on this point. Among other things, he said this: “Rosa Luxemburg railed against Lenin’s ‘Tartar-Mongolian barbarism.’ And this was in 1905 — before he’d had the chance to kill anybody!”

    The “good” Lenin is a myth.


  2. Dear Hal,

    I didn’t write of a good, cuddly Lenin. I simply was saying that he was less psychopathic than Stalin. Lenin no doubt could have ordered and rationalized the murder of millions; but none of them would have been his friends or allies. You couldn’t say that about Stalin.

    Lenin’s idea of fun was reading trigonometry textbooks–really. Stalin’s idea of fun was murder.

    Eugene (who has read Robert Conquest)

    p.s. Rosa Luxemburg was just a Germanophile snob, who thought that the Russian masses were too vulgar for the edifying joys of Marx. (And Marx would have agreed.)

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