However, Historians like Christopher Hill argue that The Red Terror and the CHEKA were important measures to defend against instability and were forced upon during certain circumstances. The historian Marcel Liebman states that Lenin’s motives were ‘to defend the soviet power against the attacks of counter revolutionaries’. This is evident in the creation of The Red Terror, which was a result of an attempt to murder Lenin and this gave him the initiative to defend himself through the creation of The Red Terror. Therefore, The Red Terror was arguably a necessary temporary response to the opposition Lenin faced as a leader. Thus, Lenin could not be seen as a dictator; Lenin established The Red Terror because of threat to his position and so The Red Terror was merely a response. Lenin’s reaction was simply like any other regime facing opposition would have taken.
Some historians view Lenin’s commitment in installing communism in Russia as a reflection for his sincerity to end bloodshed and create a communist utopia. This is reflected in Lenin’s taste to live a humble life and refuse a life of luxury which shows that he was committed to his ideals of building a Communist state. This is supported by the historian Christopher Hill who claims that Lenin ‘unaffectedly continued to live in the simplest style, sleeping in an iron, bedstead in a carpet less room’ This gives an indication of Lenin’s character; that he was humble and simplistic, and refutes the image that many automatically conjure of a violent ruthless dictator. Lenin’s humble nature is further supported by Hill stating that ‘presents of food which peasants sent in to him during the famine he invariable gave away.’ This shows that Lenin’s main concern was building a communist society and indicates that Lenin truly believed in doing what was right for the people of Russia. Therefore, Lenin can be seen as a revolutionary hero because of his simplistic life style and his decision to put the concerns of the people of Russia over his own.
Furthermore, some historians believe that Lenin’s intentions were to improve conditions for the people rather than fuel his own desire for power. Historian John Laver states that ‘Lenin was accessible as an individual’ which discards characteristics of a dictator. According to Laver ‘those who disagreed with him in conversation were not in fear of their liberty or their lives’ which shows that Lenin valued the opinion of his cabinet and welcomed other views that challenged his own. Thus, the historian is suggesting that Lenin was committed to his mission of building a better state for the people rather than dictating for greed of power. Furthermore, Lenin was ‘regarded by his staff as considerate’ which show empathetic tendencies rather than characteristics of a dictator. Laver states that Lenin ‘received an on average 300 letters a week. In addition to reading these, he listened to reports about the situation in the provinces.’ Lenin is shown to be motivated and committed to his mission of building a better state. Therefore, Lenin can be viewed as a revolutionary hero who strived to build a state to end previous years of hardship and unfair treatment because he was viewed as ‘considerate’ and was involved with matters of Russia.
However, whilst Laver defends Lenin’s commitment and sincerity in achieving a revolution and building a communist state, Laver states that Lenin showed ‘no concern about human rights on a more general level’. This is further supported by his refusal to include the Bolsheviks with the Mensheviks and social revolutionaries which limited a more broadly-based government from developing. Laver seems to agree that Lenin had genuine interests to build a better state, however this does not imply that Lenin did not use doctorial tactics to achieve his dream. Volkogonov agrees with Laver by describing the Bolshevik party as more of an ‘order’ where ‘Elements regarded as unworthy were purged.’ This denies the idea that Lenin surrounded himself with a variety of opinions and influencers but rather restricted members in his party who ‘met certain ideological as well as class or racial criteria’. Therefore, Volkogonov implies that Lenin was a dictator because he chose to surround himself with people who only shared the same opinion as himself and therefore this suggests he was working towards a one-party dictatorship.
However, historian Hill argues against the idea that Lenin was only concerned for himself and his own party. Under Lenin, Hill argues that ‘laws were being passed abolishing all inequalities based on class, sex nationality or religion’. This shows that Lenin was not discriminative and genuinely cared for the interests of the people, thus showing qualities of a revolutionary hero rather than a dictator. Hill further supports this claim by claiming that Lenin ‘called on women themselves to take the lead in establishing the communal institutions’ which gives the impression that Lenin cared for women’s rights and equality and worked towards improving conditions in Russia. Historian Laver supports Hill in the opinion that Lenin genuinely had the interests of Russia at heart; ‘Lenin received an on average 300 letters a week. In addition to reading these, he listened to reports about the situation in the provinces’. This supports the impression that Lenin strived for the genuine interests of the people rather than his own. Laver also argues that ‘the fact that his collogues drew little more than Workmen’s wages was widely appreciated by outsiders’. This signifies that the people of Russia valued Lenin and his work ethic and gives an insight that the people saw him as a figure who they can look up to and trust, thus showing he was a revolutionary hero.
Some historians like Volkogonov saw Lenin as a dictator because of his approach to eliminate opposition and any threat to his power and regime. According to Volkogonov, Lenin immediately resorted to ‘prison, the concentration camps, exile, the firing squad, hostages and blackmail’ in order to enforce his ideals, implying that Lenin used terror to achieve his goal. This is supported by the murder of the Tsar and his whole family including children which Laver vocalizes was ‘in order to prevent them falling into enemy hands’. This implies that Lenin did not tolerate opposition or threat to his ideals and was prepared to use violence to force acceptance towards the communist regime. Laver also states that under Lenin ‘representatives of Left-winged political groups like the SR’s were shot in order to prevent them falling into enemy hands’ which further supports that Lenin used terror and violent tactics to enforce Communism, thus showing that Lenin was a dictator. However, the steps Lenin took when he came to power can be seen as a necessity to maintain order, and were methods any leader who comes to power would have taken. Hill argues that ‘the revolution had been completely successful in in its negative aspect: tsar and landlords had gone forever.’ This suggests that the murder of the Tsars was a necessity to get closer to a communist state and to bring closure to a reign of corruption, therefore Lenin could be seen as a revolutionary hero.
Some historians view Lenin as a revolutionary hero because they believe he genuinely cared for the interests of Russia. Hill proclaims that ‘the Russian Revolution… uplifted the poor and the downtrodden and improved their lot in the everyday things of life.’ which implies qualities of a revolutionary hero. This is supported through the creation of the NEP, which launched literacy campaigns and motivated people to apply to university. In 1517, three quarters of the population was illiterate and by 1939, illiteracy rates became uncommon. This implies that Lenin cared about the conditions in Russia and ways to improve them. This supports the ideal that Lenin was a revolutionary hero because he was able to improve conditions in Russia thus accomplishing long term economic success.
However, Lenin’s attempt to eradicate religion was an example of him using force which demonstrates qualities of a dictator. Laver states that ‘ Persecution for the Orthodox Church by means of depriving it of its property, arresting priests, and active discouragement of church services, began soon after the Revolution.’ This implies that Lenin feared anyone who challenged his authority and power; he wanted to eradicate religion because he believed that people should worship Communism rather than God. Lenin initiating persecution limited the people’s freedom of practice; which consolidated his power and simultaneously removing opposition, thus showing dictatorship tendencies.