I began this survey about Karl Marx only to hit a quick detour while looking into Marx’s first experimental run, Russia. Like most theoreticians, Karl Marx couldn’t show or tell you how to build a sandbox…at least in less than 10,000 words.
But the general approach he preferred was probably the German. In 1848 Europe was awash with revolutions, but each one different, and none pertaining to, or emanating from Marx and Engels “Communist Manifesto”. We just know that Marx did not like the French approach to just about everything. (Like Mark Twain, I would probably agree.)
He suffered fools lightly, even more so people he considered to be fools, usually because of birth defects such as the country of their birth or the color of their skin. Old School Democrats with any living memory of Jim Crow would understand this bias. Marx, for instance, had a bias against Russians, who in his day, were the last remaining feudal system in Europe. And one of his most avid followers was a Russian philosopher named Mikhail Bakunin, who described himself as an “anarchist”. Not the Sacco and Vanzetti sort, but a real philosopher. And he was an avid believer in Karl Marx, only with a Russian twist. But Marx publicly berated Bakunin at the Paris Commune in 1871 as being “devoid of philosophical knowledge.” Still, it would be Russia and VI Lenin who would forge the first Marxist experiment.
I can’t speak for GenZ or Millennials, but know that my sons, (Gen X, born in the Cold War) and my generation, in full-blown Cold War mode) were well aware of the Russian Revolution (1917-1921) and the principal players; Lenin, Stalin, Kerensky, Kamenev, Beria, and of course, Lenin’s right hand man, Leon Trotsky, plus Sinoviev and Sokolnikov.
Lenin died 99 years ago, (1924) and was buried in that giant mausoleum in Red Square, where he still lies in state (I visited there in 1992) and many expected Trotsky to take over, as he was most in line with Lenin’s revolutionary thinking. But Stalin, General Secretary of the Politburo, had arranged for most of the leaders to be absent from Moscow, and in their absence Stalin was elected.
So, Trotsky high-tailed it to Mexico, where he organized a continuation of Lenin’s Revolution, until August, 1940, when Stalin’s paid assassins found him and killed him.
Enter Claire Sheridan, our star interloper, who was able to portray the early Bolsheviks as a star-struck band with their first hit album. Claire was a 35-year old widow with two young daughters and a son, a sculptress, who accepted an invitation by the first Soviet Trade delegation to visit Russia in 1920, in large part because (I suppose) her first cousin was Winston Churchill, who was Secretary of State for Air and War. (Her mother was the sister of Winston’s mother, Jenny Jerome…a true beauty, and namesake of the town and Copper Pit in Yavapai County, Arizona, where I practiced law in the 1970s.)
She was also a fine writer, detailing her travels and exploits, I’m not sure how much Sir Winston knew of this at the time, but she had several affairs in Russia, became a party member while Winston was working with his government to defeat this new bug in the world’s rug. She dropped her knickers for this guy, Trotsky, next in line behind Lenin, as well as Lev Kamenev, Deputy Chairman of the Council of the People’s Commissars.
She also did several sculptures, then after a year or so, came home, to a very cold shoulder from Winston. Best friends for years, they later made up, and she outlived Winston by five years. I think they later reported that she was an undercover spy for British Intelligence
She was an adventuress, as well as a fine artist. She outlived two of her three children, and traveled to America and Hollywood, having an affair with Charlie Chaplin in Hollywood, and others along the way. In her 50s, after WWII she joined the Catholic Church and gave up her knicker-dropping and began doing art mostly for the Church.
I only mention Claire here because she adds a human dimension to the inside-baseball side of politics, where even in a revolutionary Moscow driven by wild political zealotry, the band members could pause for a drink, a smoke and a poke.
There is a certain Grateful Dead aspect of Claire Sheridan’s life, chasing after famous figures, which was always limited to people with money and time. Close your eyes and imagine several million of them, only without any talent. I have a Twitter friend, @TedJoy71, who’s coined a phrase I won’t use without attribution; “Highly-schooled, middle-class women” which he claims…and I agree…is one of America’s greatest cultural afflictions, and dangers. (Just go follow him and say “Vassar sent me.”)
There was a book written by a university professor named Robert Cohen, Student Radicals and America’s First Mass Student Movement, 1929-1941. I recommend reading it, only noting Cohen’s own enthusiasm, when it only consisted of a couple of thousand college students, keeping in mind almost all were from New York, and private schools, and how they must have appeared to those people in Bell County, Kentucky. What they would have given for an occasional Lev Kamenev.