Lenin ‘was quite fond of Kropotkin, and he was quite fond of some of the anarchist militants and activists. How could he not be? They had dominated Russian politics for the whole of the nineteenth century. It wasn’t Marxism that was dominant. It was anarchism. This was the ideology the young people liked. These were the ideas of Kropotkin and Bakunin, which they adopted and which led them to a form of anarcho-terrorism because they said, “There’s nothing left for us to do.”’
Literature shaped Russian political culture: “The classicism that was so deeply rooted in Lenin acted as a bulwark to seal him from the exciting new developments in art and literature that had both preceded and accompanied the revolution. Lenin found it difficult to make any accommodations to modernism in Russia or elsewhere. The work of the artistic avant garde – Mayakovsky and the constructivists – was not to his taste. In vain did the poets and artists tell him that they, too, loved Pushkin and Lermontov, but that they were also revolutionaries, challenging old art forms and producing something very different and new that was more in keeping with Bolshevism and the age of revolution. He simply would not budge.”
“Insurrection of the masses does not require a justification. And what took place was indeed an insurrection and not a conspiracy. We openly forged the will of the masses for an insurrection… To those who left from here and who are proposing other courses of action, we have only this to say: You are pitiful isolated individuals; you are bankrupts; your role is played out. Go where you belong from now on — into the dustbin of history!” Thus spoke Leon Trotsky addressing the Second All-Russian Congress of the Soviets on the day of the October coup of 1917, directing his remarks against those delegates who objected to the Bolshevik seizure of power, of which he was one of the main organizers. Roughly ten years after he made this speech, it was Trotsky himself together with his allies in the intra-party opposition who would end up in the “dustbin of history,” put there by the victorious group of Stalin.
Much of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s oeuvre was written as a kind of retaliation against Chernyshevsky’s ideas. In 1902, Lenin named his first serious book What Is to Be Done? in homage to Chernyshevsky’s novel. Progressive young Russians, in imitation of Chernyshevsky’s “new people,” practiced free love and new forms of marriage and experimented with Chernyshevsky’s communal economic model.