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Lenin essentially thought that many individual freedoms had to be subverted for the good of the people as a whole. This was especially crucial, he thought, in the early days of the Soviet state. He had argued before the Russian Revolution that the people needed to be led by a vanguard of revolutionary intellectuals, and after victory in the civil war was secured, he instituted the infamous Cheka, or secret police, in order to enforce party orthodoxy.
On the other hand, this party orthodoxy was reached by what he called "democratic centralism," meaning free debate among party leaders. Once a decision was reached, however, it was final and binding for everyone. This principle, which was increasingly abandoned, as the number of decision-makers shrank in response to dissent from workers' soviets and farmers, did not ever apply at the local level, where Lenin advocated brutal measures to deal with dissenters. In response to one series of protests, Lenin sent an infamous telegram to local party leaders, demanding that they
hang (hang without fail, so that the people see) no fewer than one hundred known kulaks, rich men, bloodsuckers. . . Do it in such a way that for hundreds of versts [kilometers] around, the people will see, tremble, know, shout: they are strangling and will strangle . . . the bloodsucker kulaks...
Violence aside, Lenin's view of a communist society was essentially a compromise between Marxist orthodoxy and realities on the ground. His New Economic Policy (NEP) allowed for private land ownership and selling produce at market prices, but still maintained firm state control over heavy industry.
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