Book Review: ‘Reminiscences of Lenin’
Sidelights on Lenin
‘Reminiscences of Lenin’, by Clara Zetkin. Modern Books, Ltd. 2s. and 1s.
This brief account of recollections of Lenin is written by the German Communist, Clara Zetkin, formerly an active member of the large Social Democratic Party. Quite a large part of the book is occupied with Lenin’s criticism of the German Communist Party.
The relations of the workers’ struggle towards art and culture is also dwelt upon by Lenin in his discussions with the author and other women. Lenin upon one occasion pointed out that millions in Russia “are crying out to learn the art of spelling, of writing their names, of counting; are crying for culture . . . “
Clara Zetkin said: “Don’t complain so bitterly, Comrade Lenin. To a certain extent it really helped forward the revolution. It prevented the mind of the workers being stopped up and corrupted with bourgeois ideas and conceptions. Your propaganda and agitation is falling on virgin soil. It is easier to sow and to reap where you have not first of all to uproot a whole forest.”
“Yes, that is true,” Lenin replied, “but only within limits, or, more correctly, for a certain period of our struggle. Illiteracy was compatible with the seizure of power, with the necessity to destroy the old State apparatus. But do we destroy merely for destruction’s sake? We destroy in order to build better. Illiteracy is incompatible with the task of construction.”
These words of Lenin are an answer to many Bolsheviks who imagine our task of getting Socialism is hindered by education. Even Lenin’s point, that it was easier to overthrow Czarism because the masses were illiterate, could only apply to countries like Russia. Modern countries depend upon an enlightened working class to even desire to abolish the established system.
Later in the book we are told how Lenin objected to the German Communist Women’s Circle mainly occupying their time discussing sex and marriage. He pointed out that they should be discussing the Proletarian Revolution and the larger social question of which sex and marriage are only a part, and not even a fundamental part.
The book, while fragmentary in its treatment, is interesting. It pays a great homage to the unassuming and helpful character of Lenin.