On the Alleged Forgery of ”Lenin’s Testament”

(Thoughts regarding V.A. Sakharov’s article)

I have previously talked about some of the myths surrounding the collection of documents known as ”Lenin’s testament” or more accurately Lenin’s Letter to the Congress. We know Leon Trotsky distorted the whole meaning of these documents in order to use them as a political weapon against Stalin, his rival, and this is still a favorite pastime of Trotskyists to this day. They rarely stop to analyse the deeper meaning of the documents and focus on quoting and repeating ad nauseam a couple of select lines critical of Joseph Stalin.


In this article I won’t be going into the meaning or context behind those well-known passages (”Stalin is too rude and this defect, although quite tolerable in our midst and in dealing among us Communists, becomes intolerable in a Secretary-General” etc.) instead I will give my personal opinion on a controversial topic that has recently been on my mind – the alleged forgery of Lenin’s letters. My interest was sparked initially by V. A. Sakharov’s article published in English as The Forgery of the ‘Lenin Testament’ (1997).

How could it be?

At first the mere thought of the letters being forged seems too incredible. Afterall nobody doubted their authenticity at the time. Even Stalin rather then contesting their authenticity chose to apologize to Lenin and admit his rudeness publicly. However certain facts that have come to light raise some questions.


Sakharov divides the letter documents into two categories:


1) the texts and articles provably written by Lenin himself for instance the articles Better fewer, but better (January-March 1923) and On Cooperation (Jan 4-6 1923)

2) the texts which cannot be proven to have been written by Lenin. These are basically the later dictated additions to the letter. Curiously its precisely these few additions that cannot be proven to have come from Lenin’s pen which are also the ones critical of Stalin.

What is the evidence?

At this point everyone should be wondering about the evidence. The unfortunate fact is (as is often the case with controversial historical topics) that we might never know for absolute certain but here are the things we do know: the dictations are not signed by Lenin. Their authenticity could be verified by the diary of his secretariat but this is typically not the case, the diary was partially incomplete and filled retro-actively. On top of that the personal papers of Lenin’s doctors often outright contradict the alleged dates of the dictations, some of which are dated at times when Lenin’s doctors explicitly say he was not working with his secretaries or dictating anything.


While this does not prove the dictations to be forgeries it casts serious doubt on their authenticity. This taken with the fact that they are strikingly dissimilar to Lenin’s own writings both stylistically and in content and character I personally cannot anymore believe them to be authentic. Previously I held the view that the change in style and content to be the result of Lenin’s illness, that he was dying. However I no longer believe that to be the case.

The Argument

So what exactly do the forged segments say? They are critical of Stalin of course, questioning his ability to handle responsibility and his moral character, calling him rude etc., One might argue that surely if the supporters of Trotsky and Zinoviev had forged the documents then surely they would have been even more critical of Stalin? That is not necessarily the case. If you were trying to forge a Lenin document then what would you do? There were virtually no ideological or political differences or disagreements between Lenin and Stalin.


That leaves few options: questioning Stalin’s capabilities, referring to his rudeness (Zinoviev knew about the incident between Stalin & Krupskaya and even later tried exploiting it for political gain though this was promptly put an end to by Krupskaya and Maria Ulyanova), and criticizing Stalin’s practical work rather then theoretical or ideological position. Coincidentally (?) this is precisely what the dictated (forged?) segments exhibit. The seemingly illogical and uncharacteristic dictated addition on Stalin’s rudeness, a section questioning his capabilities to handle power and lastly the letters relating to Stalin’s, Orjonikidze’s and Dzershinsky’s handling of the war effort in Georgia.


Needless to say it would have been uncharacteristic for Lenin to criticize someone behind their back or conspire. Also taking matters personally and being offended or holding grudges would have been equally unlike him. In short, on top of being of unverified authenticity the dictated sections read like someone trying to attack others in Lenin’s name – pretending to be Lenin and doing a pretty bad job at it!

Footnotes:

The Forgery of the ‘Lenin Testament’” by V. A. Sakharov
http://www.revolutionarydemocracy.org/rdv7n1/LenTest.htm

On the Relations between Lenin and Stalin” by Maria Ulyanova http://www.revolutionarydemocracy.org/rdv8n1/lenstal.htm


mels

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