|Vladimir I. Lenin|
Six Principles of Propaganda
Lenin Used to Consolidate Power
by Monica Showalter (edited and truncated by FT)
Posted 09/20/2013 07:12 PM ET
Having attained power in late 1917 on a raft of promises — land to Russia's peasants, bread to Russia's starving cities and peace to Russia's World War I-weary soldiers — V.I. Lenin was able to dispense with every one of them by advancing civil war from 1918 to 1921 to justify his acts by crisis.
In place of ... liberty and rights, Lenin gave Russians propaganda, empowering the Bolsheviks to govern through knoutish messages, if not the barrel of the gun. In so doing, he sought to undermine Russia's weak democracy and to transform her society fundamentally.
"The Russian Revolution was permeated with forceful propaganda of a brutal kind ... This was used not so much to win people over with ideas, but [through] coercion, repression and making examples[i.e. selective prosecutions]. ...
A number of patterns emerged
The Ends Justify the Means
Lenin's promises delivered just the opposite. He guaranteed a free press, but ... he halted it, and ordered opposition newspapers shut down and censorship re-instituted. He called it temporary, but it wasn't.
Lenin also [promised] to broaden land ownership, but immediately issued 60 decrees to end private property, including a secret directive to destroy state archives of land, factory and building title deeds before anyone could protest. To war-weary soldiers, Lenin promised peace, but immediately impressed them into the new Red Army, holding their families hostage to ensure their loyalty.
All this was justified in his mind by one idea: consolidating power. ...
Firstest With The Mostest
... Lenin also was quick to seize the semantic high ground ...
Like Nathan Bedford Forrest, the "firstest with the mostest" general in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War, Lenin swiftly altered and manipulated the meanings of words, intellectually disarming opponents.
As early as 1903, at a party congress, Lenin won a membership issue by a single vote. But from then on he called his faction "the Bolsheviks," or majoritarians, and his opponents "Mensheviks," or minoritarians. It didn't matter that the Bolsheviks never were a true majority among Russia's revolutionaries; what mattered was the perception of power.
Lenin repeated the tactic by dubbing Bolsheviks "Reds" to signal an affinity with the bloody violence of the French Revolution, while their battlefield opponents were saddled with "Whites" to link them with the discredited French Bourbon dynasty. Lenin also took title to the word "democracy," disarming opponents who were then unable to project a coherent message. By controlling words, Lenin controlled perceptions of reality.
Never Let a Crisis Go to Waste
As propagandists, however, the Bolsheviks were not especially persuasive. ...
Their newspapers were notoriously gray, mechanically spouting simple, choppy messages such as "All Power to the Soviets!" "Create a New Socialist Man!" and "Bread! Peace! Land!"
They were expert, however, at tuning these gray organs into monopolies. Instead of persuading with words, Lenin simply closed competing papers, leaving only the Bolshevik publications. ...
Vilification and Mischaracterization
In denouncing opponents, Lenin was obsessive, virulent and personal, calling them "bloodsuckers," "insects," "spiders," "leeches" and "vampires." The bourgeois were "ex-people." The murder of Czar Nicholas II and his family was termed "a humane act."
Then there were "hoarders," "wreckers," "saboteurs" and, worst of all, "Kulaks" — the prosperous and industrious peasants of whom Lenin spoke only with virulent hatred ...
Lenin rarely made such statements in public, however. ... Most of these characterizations were secretly hidden in Soviet archives. In public, Lenin wanted to be pictured as a jolly apostle of Marxism.
Use of Selective Prosecutions (Example)
Perhaps the most propaganda against Russia's mostly illiterate population was the use of selective prosecutions as part of a reign of terror. Public hangings and shootings served as well as any written material to force Russians into submission. "These swine have to be dealt with so that everyone will remember it for years," Lenin wrote.
Terror wasn't confined to those who defied Lenin. "We must execute not only the guilty. Execution of the innocent will impress the masses even more," wrote Lenin's commissar for justice ...
To reinforce the Bolsheviks' monopoly of ideas, churches were targeted for destruction, sacred objects were looted ... and tossed into the dirt, while priests were shot. ...
... Lenin ordered the use of poison gas on at least one village before it was leveled. "The dictatorship means — take note of this once and for all — unrestrained power based on force, not law," wrote Lenin.
Blame Your Predecessor
... Lenin's ... civil war cost 13 million lives and his ruinous economic policies triggered the famine of 1921-1922. Y... Many videos of Lenin speaking, demonstrate his propensity to blame Czar Nicolas, for the economic havoc.
Eventually, he would have to backtrack on communism to hold on to power. But error was never admitted and his New Economic Plan proved just a breather ahead of even worse horrors to come under Joseph Stalin.
[NEXT: Lenin tries to build a New Soviet Man through education and indoctrination.]