The Comrade’s cat lies curled upon a chair — A weathered chair whose leather once was red, Where yellow eyes return its master’s stare; A stare that grinds the Comrades to despair, A stare from which all pity has been bled. The Comrade’s cat lies curled upon a chair, A chair within a prissy, book lined lair, A chair where men have sat in fumbling dread, Where yellow eyes return a scholar’s stare. Neat piles of paper conjured from the air, Long lists of traitors — soon to join the dead; Their Comrade’s cat lies curled upon a chair, Awaiting Nadya’s footsteps on the stair. Fat Cheka knows that — soon! — he will be fed. Bright yellow eyes return an exile’s stare, Who folds his napkin, like his lists, with care; Prefers his meat served rare on black rye bread. The Comrade’s cat lies curled upon a chair — Where yellow eyes return a madman’s stare.
The 20th century produced more than its fair share of ideological mass killers. Hitler and Stalin, of course, leap to mind. As does Mao-Tse Tung. But Lenin? Surely not. Surely Joseph Stalin twisted Marxist-Leninism into his own looking-glass landscape of show trials, Gulags, ethnic murder and repressive madness? That would have been my own shrugged reaction, until recently. But as modern Russia opens long sealed vaults describing its Soviet descent into hell, the record shows that it was Lenin who again and again urged the army, the Commisars and Politburo to use “the absolute maximum of violence and terror than can be conceived to utterly eradicate counter-revolutionary forces.” Scores of his directives were so violent in language, so appalling in their intent, that they were kept from public view for over seventy years. Here’s an example: “Comrades! The insurrection of five kulak districts must be pitilessly suppressed. Hang a hundred. Hang a thousand. But hang them in full view!” Yes he loved cats (and kept one I have called ‘Cheka’, after the political police, in his Kremlin office). Yes he was a brilliant intellectual. And he adored children. But he was also a sick, demented deathmonger who believed that an iota of mercy shown to an enemy was the highest form of treason. This is the same fastidious man who walked the corridors of the Kremlin turning off lights at night to save electricity. Who sharpened his pencils obsessively every day. And who always killed at second hand. Truly, Lenin was Stalin’s mentor.