Leninist exegesis: on prayer and the narrow way

Lenin is not usually thought of as one to give advice on prayer, but he is certainly not into outward shows of piety:

This reminds us of the saying about those who, if they are compelled to pray, do it with such zeal that they bang their foreheads against the ground. Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 6, p. 136.

And Lenin’s liking for expanding Gospel sayings of Jesus shows up again, now with the contrast between the wide and easy way versus the narrow gate and the hard way of Matthew 7:13-14:

Well then, if you do agree to follow this road, make an effort to proceed along it independently; don’t make it necessary to drag you; don’t let the ‘unusual’ appearance of this road frighten you, don’t be put out by the fact that in many places you will find no beaten track at all, and that you will have to crawl along the edges of precipices, break your way through thickets, and leap across chasms. Don’t complain of the poor road: these complaints will be futile whining, for you should have known in advance that you would be moving, not along a highway that has been graded and levelled by all the forces of social progress, but along paths through out-of-the-way places and back-alleys which do have a way out, but from which you, we or anyone else will never find a direct, simple, and easy way out. Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 6, pp. 126-7.

Makes me wonder whether an article on Lenin’s exegesis of the Gospels isn’t a bad idea …

Advertisements

Lenin, the Gospels and What Is To Be Done?

Looks like I will need a chapter on Lenin’s What Is To Be Done? in my Lenin and Theology book. Up until this work of 1902, I have found scattered biblical allusions in Lenin’s work and some occasionally entertaining reflections on the church, but in this thoroughly engaging text I hit pay dirt. What Is To Be Done? is saturated with biblical references, drawn especially from the Gospels and the sayings and parables of Jesus. For example, in the crucial section concerning organisation of the workers and of revolutionaries, we find:

It is precisely our campaign of exposure that will help us separate the tares from the wheat. What the tares are, we have already indicated. By the wheat we mean attracting the attention of ever larger numbers of the workers to social and political questions … In a word, our task is to fight the tares. It is not our business to grow wheat in flowerpots. By pulling up the tares, we clear the soil for the wheat. And while the Afanasy Ivanoviches and Pulkheria Ivanovas are tending their flowerpot crops, we must prepare the reapers, not only to cut down the tares of today, but to reap the wheat of tomorrow. Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 5, pp. 455-6.

This parable, along with that of the sower, becomes an extended metaphor throughout this crucial section.  What happens in the process is not merely that Lenin draws upon Gospel themes for thinking through revolutionary organisation, but that the sayings and parables themselves become radicalised.