Lenin’s Wonderful Georgian
John Etty charts the complex, and highly significant, relationship between Lenin and Stalin.
According to Dmitri Volkogonov, 'The greatest secret of Stalin's invulnerability, his diabolical strength, was his monopoly on Lenin'. But did Stalin have any right to claim this monopoly, which seemed almost to lend him rights of co-ownership of Lenin?
In September 1938, as Munich transfixed Europe and as the Terror saw the USSR paralysed, the History of the All-Union Communist Party: Short Course was first published. In the Short Course, Stalin (who claimed authorship of the book after 1945) was portrayed as the hero of the Party. Lenin and Stalin are repeatedly mentioned in the same phrase, almost as if the two names were synonymous. Stalin is quoted as an authority on Party affairs and a political pundit, despite his poor theoretical credentials and his perennial exile before 1917. Later versions saw Stalin greeting Lenin as he stepped onto the Finland Station platform but, even earlier, less daringly fictitious editions portrayed Stalin as Lenin's closest assistant after April 1917. During the October Revolution Stalin collaborated with Lenin to minimise the disruptive effects of Trotsky. It was Stalin who devised the successful Civil War strategy against Denikin's Whites.
The Short Course offered Lenin as the personification of Bolshevik struggle and Stalin as his modest yet talented sidekick. Similarly, the exultations published on the occasion of Stalin's 50th birthday in December 1929 confirmed Stalin as the steadfastly loyal colleague who had remained close to Lenin, personally and ideologically, through the difficult years before October 1917.