S. Martin Shelton

Retired U.S.Navy Captain, Novelist

Archive for the tag “Lenin”

BOOK REVIEW: The Spanish Civil War by Gabriele Ranzato

spanish civil warRanzato presents us with a pocketsize, summary of the political machinations of the various fighting-factions during the 1936 to 1939 Spanish Civil War. In large measure, he skips the military campaign. Permeating the conflict was the chaos of vacillating loyalties, conflicting interests of the various factions, and the telling influence of the military involvement of “non-interventionists” countries: for example, the Union of Soviet Socialists Republics and its Communist International’s (COMINTERN) domination of the “Republican” government, and the International Brigades comprised of men from most western nations. On the Nationalist side (Generalissimo Francisco Franco) were the Moroccan Legion, Nazi Germany’s Condor Legion, and Fascist Italy’s contribution of all manner of soldiers and arms.

On the positive side, he opens this book with an excellent summary of the political events that racked Spain before the Revolution. He discusses in detail the Soviet Union’s domination of the “Republican” government. On page fifty is a picture of a street scene in Barcelona—seen on the façade of a building is a large portrait of Vladimir Lenin. Emphasized throughout are descriptions of the atrocities committed by both sides. Relevant photographs and posters suffuse throughout the book. The Chronology at the end of the book set the perspective for the raison d’être the revolution.

Unfortunately, in Ranzato’s short treatise, he does not enlighten us very much. He mentions some of the factions and their involvement, but not enough to clarify the chaos. In fact, his text is so surfeit of details that our understanding of the internecine of the factions is seriously incomplete and muddled. Numerous side bar texts interrupt the flow of his narrative. His two small maps are insufficient in several ways: some geographic locations mentioned in the text are not shown on the maps, their scale is too large, and their paucity is a serious negative.

I would suggest that, in part, the problem lies in the translation to English from Spanish, his writing style, and the subject is so convoluted that one cannot resolve it in such a simple book.

Vladimir Lenin


Vladimir Llich Lenin

Lenin was born into a wealthy middle-class family in Simbirsk, Russia—a town on the Volga river about 850 miles east of Moscow.  He became a leftist revolutionary after the OHKRANA (the Czar’s secret police)  arrested and executed his brother in 1887. He attending the Kazan State University, but he was suspended for his anti-Tsarist protests.  Eventually he earned a law degree, and embraced radical politics and became an avid Marxist.

In 1893, while in St. Petersburg, the OHKRANA arrested Lenin for sedition and exiled him to Siberia for three years.  After his release, he married Nadezhda Krupskaya, and lived in Western Europe.   In 1909, Lenin published Materialism and Empirio-criticism that set the course for socialist revolution, and became the philosophic foundation of Marxism-Leninism.  At the start of World War I in 1914, he was living in Switzerland and in poverty.

The February Revolution of 1917, precipitated by the Russian military disasters on the Eastern Front and the revolutionary chaos forced, Czar Nicholas II to abdicate.  Germany seized this opportunity to weaken the Russia war effort by sending the rabble-rouser Lenin to St. Petersburg in a sealed train.

Lenin realized that his Bolshevik party had the advantage and must seize the moment.  From the steps of the post and telegraph building, he shouted the mantra of the Marxist revolution: “Workers of the world unite! Throw off your chains. You are the vanguard of the proletariat. Today, the armed revolution has begun,  We will have peace, land, and bread.”


This is the locomotive that brought Lenin to St. Petersburg in 1917

Young Lenin

Lenin in disguise in 1917: clean-shaven and with wig

Then, much to Lenin’s chagrin, the Petrograd Soviet, with its Menshevik and Socialist majority, elects Alexander Kerensky as minister of justice and commander-in-chief of the army. In effect, Kerensky becomes the premier of the provisional government. He promises democracy, abolition of the death penalty, and a continuation of the war.


 Alexander Kerensky (1881-1970)

 The provisional government under Kerensky isolated the Czar and his family at the TsarskoeSeloPalace—about thirty miles from St. Petersburg.  And, on March 21, Kerensky placed Czar Nicholas and his family under house arrest.

 In late October, Lenin’s Bolsheviks launch the second revolution with the goal to overthrow Kerensky’s provisional government. Bolshevik troops invade the Duma of Deputies in Petrograd and arrest the top two hundred leaders, including Kerensky and Leon Trotsky.


 Leon Trotsky (1879-1940)

 On November 8, the Bolsheviks’ All-Russian Congress of Soviets elected Lenin chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars—in essence, the head of government.  Lenin pronounced, “Communism is Soviet power. “Henceforth the government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics will be totalitarian Communism.” Bolshevik commissars throughout Russia establish socialist Soviet Councils of Workers’ Deputies to govern provinces and cities. Felix Dzerzhinsky’s Cheka begins the Red Terror.

On March 3, 1918, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics signs the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, ending its participation in World War.

Lenin ruled the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics for the next seven years with an iron-hand dictatorship.  His secret police, the Cheka, reigned unchecked and murdered an estimated 2,000,000 people—anyone who opposed him, or his revolutionary policies.

The Royal family was under house arrest in the “House of Special Purpose” in Ekaterinburg, Siberia,   On 17 July 1918 Lenin signed the regicide telegram that ordered his Cheka lieutenant to eliminate the Czar, the Empress and their five children and others in their entourage.

Lenin died of a massive stroke on 21st January 1924.

It’s a gloomy day in the Kremlin and Lenin sits at his desk in my historical novel St. Catherine’s Crown.  He solicits comments from his revolutionary comrades about the regicide telegram he has just drafted.   When he asks for your opinion, try to dissuade him from signing that telegram—the regicide will engender the enmity of the western nations.  May I suggest that soon afterward you skedaddle tout de suite to the nearest friendly border and seek asylum.   The Cheka has alerted its worldwide network to arrest you:  or to “terminate with prejudice.”

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