The Bolsheviks, Lenin and Machiavelli

  • E. A. Rees


In the major studies of Bolshevism and of Lenin’s career and political thought, little attention has been paid to the question of Machiavelli’s influence. There are two notable exceptions to this trend — Alain Besançon and Kosta Cavoski. Even those who provide a convincing picture of Lenin as the revolutionary Machiavellian politician par excellence, such as Walicki, shy away from using the term or of exploring more closely the relationship between Lenin and Machiavelli.1 There are various explanations for this silence. First, this was an aspect of Bolshevism that Lenin and other leaders understandably preferred to keep quiet about. Second, the cynical and manipulative aspects of Leninist and Bolshevik practices, which are by and large universally recognized, might be derived either from other intellectual sources — the Russian revolutionary tradition, from Marx and Engels, from the tradition of Jacobinism and Blanquism, or derived from circumstances and the psychological disposition of the Bolsheviks as a conspiratorial party. Third, this was a question considered politically sensitive and best avoided, reflecting a view that equated Machiavelli simply with perfidy in politics, ignoring the strong argument that Machiavelli might be seen as a revolutionary thinker in his own right.2


Social Democracy Political Thought Class Struggle Party Organization Revolutionary Movement 
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© E. A. Rees 2004

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