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Magazine Prints Extraordinary Attack on Lenin

June 28, 1989

MOSCOW (AP) _ Through all the twists of glasnost, one figure in Soviet history has stood above criticism: Vladimir Ilych Lenin. But an official magazine now has breached that taboo with a vehement attack on the man who led the communists to power in Russia.

″Lenin - all victories of the party and the state are linked with the name of Lenin,″ wrote Vasily Grossman in a work published posthumously in the June issue of the Oktyabr literary magazine. ″But all cruelty committed in the country has become the tragic burden of Vladimir Ilych.″

Grossman charges that Soviet political terror and dictatorship were begun by Lenin and not by his successor, Josef Stalin, as Communist Party doctrine has maintained since 1956.

By printing the Ukrainian-born writer’s short novel ″Forever Flowing″ in the Soviet Union for the first time, the monthly implicitly questions President Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s often-stated view that the nation needs only to shake off the totalitarian heritage of Stalinism and return to true Leninist ways to construct a democracy in which the liberty of each citizen is respected.

″Bolsheviks did not believe in the value of personal freedom, freedom of speech and press,″ wrote Grossman. ″They, like Lenin himself, considered those freedoms which were a dream for many revolutionary workers and intelligentsia as ... insignificant.″

Soviet writers, including Alexander Solzhenitsyn, often have used the novel form to comment on real issues.

″Forever Flowing″ was published in Frankfurt in 1970, six years after Grossman’s death. It apparently circulated earlier in the Soviet Union as part of the genre of underground literature known as ″samizdat.″

Lenin, who steered the Bolsheviks to power in the 1917 Russian Revolution, was elevated to near divine status by the Kremlin following his death in 1924. His writings and thought have served since as a touchstone and bible for Communists, Gorbachev among them.

The Soviet founder’s preserved body lies in a shrine-like mausoleum at the Kremlin wall, and people lining up daily to wait their turn for a glimpse at the remains have worn a path across the the cobblestones of Red Square.

Lenin’s words are cited as gospel by Kremlin leaders as well as state agencies and propaganda organs. The in-flight brochures of Aeroflot, the state airline, stress Lenin’s enthusiasm for aviation.

In ″Forever Flowing,″ Grossman portrays a Lenin at odds with the official heroic portrait, a man who may even have had a paunch because of a love for buttered macaroni. More importantly, Grossman’s Lenin is a political fanatic who would sooner exterminate his enemies than try to persuade them.

″Lenin’s intolerance, unshakable aspiration to achieve a goal, contempt for freedom and cruelty to those who thought differently, his ability to remove from the earth whole regions, areas, which did not comply with his orthodox rightness - all those features were not added to Lenin’s character by the revolution, they go much deeper, into Lenin’s youth,″ wrote Grossman, who died in 1964.

″Lenin didn’t try to find the truth in discussions, but to win,″ Grossman said. ″When debates were transferred from the pages of newspapers and magazines into the streets, battlefields and wheatfields, it was realized that all cruel means were useful and good.″

Grossman’s accusations are strong stuff even given the criticism of other Soviet historical figures that has appeared under Gorbachev’s campaign for ″glasnost,″ or more openness. In a foreword to ″Forever Flowing,″ Grigory G. Vodolazov takes issue with Grossman’s ″identification of Lenin with Stalin″ but defends Grossman’s right to write as he pleased.

″Under socialist pluralism, V. Grossman and those who think along his lines have the legal right to express themselves,″ wrote Vodolazov, a member of the editorial board of the party theoretical journal Problems of Peace and Socialism. ″The mere existence of their opinions, their search for answers serve the highest and most noble purposes.″

If Vodolazov’s view is now official doctrine, it would extend glasnost’s range beyond the hazy boundaries that so far have preserved a measure of immunity for Lenin - and for Gorbachev himself. Since all Soviet policy claims to be ″Leninist,″ criticizing Lenin is casting doubt on the Soviet present and past since the establishment of Soviet power itself.

Perhaps Grossman’s most damning accusation is that Lenin paved the way for the centralized police state constructed by Stalin and his nationwide campaigns of political terror that led to the deaths of millions.

″Things inherited from Lenin, like revolutionary dictatorship, terror and the struggle against bourgeois freedoms, which Lenin viewed as temporary, were used by Stalin for building a foundation ... (and) became a whole with the traditional, national lack of freedom in Russia,″ Grossman wrote.

Gorbachev, other party officials and communist doctrine have maintained that Stalin was not the heir to Lenin’s work but its perverter. An article last year in another literary monthly, Novy Mir, said Lenin justified the use of terror and made errors in his early economic policy, but that he realized he was wrong and thus merits praise.

Grossman’s masterwork, a novel about World War II titled ″Life and Fate,″ also challenged a central tenet of Soviet orthodoxy by equating Nazism and Soviet communism.

The novel was so sensitive that the KGB confiscated Grossman’s manuscript in 1961, along with the carbon paper and typewriter ribbons he used to write it. Like ″Forever Flowing,″ ″Life and Fate″ was first published in the Soviet Union by Oktyabr.

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