Victor Sebestyen Quotes
“Lenin is one of those people who possess a quite exceptional strength of character . . . he is a man of many gifts and he has all the qualities of a “leader” – especially the complete lack of morality essential for such a role, and the aristocrat’s contempt for the masses. Life in all its complexity is unknown to Lenin. He does not know the masses. He has never lived among them, but he found out from books how to raise the masses onto their hind legs, how to enrage their instincts easily. To Lenin, the working class is like iron ore to a metalworker. Is it possible, given present circumstances, to cast a socialist state out of this ore? Evidently not. But why not try? What does Lenin risk if his experiment fails? . . . I am mistrustful of Russians in power – recently slaves themselves, they will become unbridled despots as soon as they have the chance to be their neighbours’ masters.”
“In his quest for power, he promised people anything and everything. He offered simple solutions to complex problems. He lied unashamedly. He identified a scapegoat he could later label ‘enemies of the people’. He justified himself on the basis that winning meant everything: the ends justified the means. Anyone who has lived through recent elections in the supposedly sophisticated political cultures of the West might recognise him. Lenin was the godfather of what commentators a century after his time call ‘post-truth politics’.”
“Lenin thought himself an idealist. He was not a monster, a sadist or vicious. In personal relationships he was invariably kind and behaved in the way he was brought up, like an upper-middle-class gentleman. He was not vain. He could laugh – even, occasionally, at himself. He was not cruel: unlike Stalin, Mao Zedong or Hitler he never asked about the details of his victims’ deaths, savouring the moment. To him, in any case, the deaths were theoretical, mere numbers. He never donned uniforms or military-style tunics as other dictators favoured. But during his years of feuding with other revolutionaries, and then maintaining his grip on power, he never showed generosity to a defeated opponent or performed a humanitarian act unless it was politically expedient.”
“Up to the abdication of the last Tsar one of the principal articles in the Fundamental Laws stated, simply, ‘His Majesty is an absolute monarch who is not obliged to answer for his actions to anyone in the world but has the power and the authority to govern his states and lands as a Christian sovereign, in accord with his desire and goodwill.”
“Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly found, and given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the living.’ Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, 1852”
“In the early Soviet years, before ‘socialist realism’ became the prescribed genre in literature, painting, film and even music, the first big new thing in the arts under Communism was ‘Prolekult’, proletarian culture. The idea was that art would reflect the experience of people in the workplace, and many artists went to factories to produce work collectively in teams rather than individually. ‘The “I” of bourgeois culture would yield to the “we” of the new world,’ as Lunacharsky said. Large amounts of money were spent on projects like building an orchestra from the sound of clanking factory machinery, and replacing old paintings in museums with often abstract new pieces produced in working conditions by a team of labourers and artists together. This was the first ‘cultural revolution’ under Communism, which aimed to destroy everything old and start anew.”
- Born: Budapest, Hungary.
- Description: Victor Sebestyen was born in Budapest and was only an infant when his family left Hungary. He has worked for many British newspapers, including the Evening Standard. He lives in England.