What confused ideas does the name "Lenin" conjure up to the mind of the man in the street! Russian and Bolshevik, of course, and probably fanatic, anarchist, tyrant, genius, as well. Yet how few have any knowledge of the true character of the leader of the Russian Revolution, certainly one of the most remarkable men of the century!
For years Lenin has been known by name to everyone that ever heard of Russia, but known by name alone. He has been a "mystery man". The story of his life, his every act, has been a traitor, a patriot, a German spy, a pacifist, a militarist; he has been reported dead time and again. It was with real anticipation of clearing up my hazy notions of Lenin that I started to read Mr. Levine's biography.
I was not disappointed. The story of the great Marxian's creation of the Bolshevist Party, of his tremendous single-handed fight to swing its other leaders to his extreme radicalism, and of his leadership of the party through his long years of exile in Siberia, during the war, in Switzerland, and back to Russia, where he overthrew the provisional government of Kerensky and negotiated the now famous Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, is all narrated in a vivid and convincing manner. The author gives Lenin's political career in full, quoting dozens of records and letters and telling scores of illuminating anecdotes, and at the same time makes a very comprehensive study of his character.
Mr. Levine agrees with Sukhanov, whom he quotes, that Lenin was a genius. Although the man had "an extremely limited mental horizon", having made up his mind at the age of twenty-three to adhere to the Marxian principles, he was "uncommonly potent and prolitic within these limitations. He was a rare combination of a doctrinaire, a statesman, and a popular leader; he was both visionary and practical.
Lenin was the founder and sole head of the Bolshevist Party, and through it he rose to a dictatorship of the largest state in Europe. Throughout his career, he was entirely without personal ambition; he worked and lived and died for his ideal. However we may regard the ideal, we must recognize the astounding force, the tremendous influence of the man, guided by that ideal, over the world.
As more laets are discovered about Lenin, more theories will be promulgated and many more volumes will be writen. He is, and will be, seen as a narrow-minded demagogue as well as an extraordinary leader and statesman; as a fiend incarnate as well as a glorious martyr. But a very faithful, impartial portait of the great revolutionist may be found in Mr. Levine's biography.