Come the revo­lu­tion…

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Marx­ist revo­lu­tion­ary Leon Trotsky was given the task of form­ing the Red Army, and he didn’t have much time given what was ar­rayed against him. One prob­lem was that he had never served in an army, let alone com­manded one. Vladimir Lenin, who led the revo­lu­tion, ap­pointed Trotsky pri­mar­ily be­cause Lenin trusted him, not be­cause Trotsky had ex­pe­ri­ence build­ing an army, al­though he had read sev­eral books on the sub­ject. Lenin trusted Trotsky would not be­tray him. In a revo­lu­tion, the hardest thing to know is who will be­tray you and who will not. Any­one could be an op­por­tunist, an agent of the enemy or a turn­coat. Dur­ing rev­o­lu­tions, com­pe­tence is a lux­ury.

Lenin un­der­stood his dilemma, and one of his first acts was to create the state se­cu­rity ap­pa­ra­tus – the Cheka – led by for­mer pa­tri­cian Felix Dz­erzhin­ski. The Cheka was heir to the Czarist Okhrana and the fa­ther of to­day’s Fed­eral Se­cu­rity Ser­vice. As an in­tel­li­gence agency, the Cheka’s ini­tial task was to spy on the mem­bers of the ap­pa­ra­tus Lenin was build­ing and elim­i­nate those who might be­tray the revo­lu­tion.

What drove Lenin was this: he wanted to liq­ui­date the old regime – a very an­ti­sep­tic term for killing those who com­prised it. The prob­lem was that if he killed them he would have few ex­perts who knew how to run trains or com­mand an army.

The Bol­she­vik lead­er­ship was com­posed of in­tel­lec­tu­als who wrote im­pres­sive books on what would hap­pen, come the revo­lu­tion, and who made speeches on the sub­ject but didn’t ac­tu­ally know how to do any­thing. Once the revo­lu­tion ends, know­ing how to make stir­ring speeches to Moscow’s work­ers is less im­por­tant than mak­ing things work.

Lenin had no choice but to use the same peo­ple who made the old regime’s mech­a­nisms work – not all of them, but enough to get it off the ground. He fig­ured he would pro­tect the revo­lu­tion through the Cheka and drive loy­alty through ter­ror – not that some Czarist of­fi­cers or train­men weren’t pre­pared to sup­port the revo­lu­tion. The prob­lem was deter­min­ing who was sin­cere and who wasn’t. Ter­ror helped, but not with an­other prob­lem he had. How could some­one who had no idea how to drill for oil recog­nise some­one who did? The revo­lu­tion suc­ceeded, but in the end it was bogged down by the dizzy­ing choice be­tween loy­alty and com­pe­tence.

U.S. Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump is not Lenin and should not be com­pared to him in any way. But in a very real sense he has launched a revo­lu­tion, made the speeches and in­spired the masses. Trump won. He promised to drain the swamp, which isn’t a bad idea. But to drain the swamp he must have peo­ple who un­der­stand how the swamp works, a pre­req­ui­site for drain­ing it. Trump is not Lenin, but now Trump has Lenin’s prob­lem.

In or­der to carry out his pro­gramme, Trump must have peo­ple who are both loyal and knowl­edge­able about var­i­ous sub­jects, such as Chi­nese af­fairs, med­i­cal in­sur­ance and 10,000 other fields. The fed­eral govern­ment is vast and in­ef­fi­cient, not so much be­cause of the peo­ple there, but be­cause of its size. So much author­ity makes it vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble to get things to­gether. The fed­eral govern­ment also is es­sen­tial to so­ci­ety at the mo­ment, be­cause if So­cial Se­cu­rity che­ques don’t ar­rive there will be chaos. Trump can­not sim­ply dis­pense with what the govern­ment does any more than Lenin could. He must purge the sys­tem with­out crash­ing it.

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