Courtois: Shlyapnikov on Lenin’s dictatorship of a non-existent class (1922)

Lenin affirmed the verity of his ideology when proclaiming himself to be a representative of the numerically weak Russian proletariat, a social group he never refrained from crushing whenever he wanted. This appropriation of the symbol of the proletariat was one of the great deceptions of Leninism, and in 1922 it provoked the following outburst from Aleksandr Shlyapnikov, one of the few Bolshevik leaders who really did have proletarian origins: “Vladimir Ilich affirmed yesterday that the proletariat as a class in the Marxist sense does not exist in Russia. Allow me to congratulate you for managing to exercise dictatorship on behalf of a class that does not actually exist!” This manipulation of the symbol of the proletariat was common to all Communist regimes in Europe and the Third World, as well as in China and Cuba.

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from Stéphane Courtois, “Conclusion: Why?” in Courtois, et al. The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression (Cambridge, MA & London: Harvard University Press, 1997/1999), p 739.

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