Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Hoaxing Lenin

From the Leftist Trainspotters list comes a report of the results of some detective work in Sweden's libraries:

For decades, a quotation of Lenin has emerged and re-emerged, at least in Sweden, proving that Lenin was a monster. Lenin allegedly said that:

"We should be prepared to use any trick, illegal method or lie...If we, for the sake of communism, should be forced to exterminate nine-tenths of the population, we should not avoid this sacrifice"

A Swedish Masters student has written a paper on the sources of this quote and on the scanned pages of a Swedish edition of Collected Works where the infamous quote can be read. His conclusion is that the quote cannot be traced or found in any English or Swedish edition of Collected Works. The original reference to the quotation, in a Danish magazine, 1970, cannot be found. The author also analyses the scanned pages available at the website of the right-wing anti-communist organisation Contra ( and concludes that it is a rather clumsy falsification.

Maybe I'm a terminal pedant, but I find all this fascinating.

There is a fake quote from Lenin in 'The Darkening Ecliptic', a sequence of poems by the famous Australian literary hoax, Ern Malley. Malley was invented by two conservative poets intent on reversing the tide of modernism that was washing over Aussie literature in the '40s by writing something completely 'ridiculous'. Today they are remembered not for their own work but for the Malley poems, which they banged out in their army barracks in the space of an afternoon.

The fake quote is given in a poem called 'Colloquoy with John Keats':

I have been bitter with you, my brother,
Remembering that saying of Lenin when the shadow
Was already on his face: "The emotions are not skilled workers"

In a review of Peter Carey's fictionalised account of the Malley affair, Blair Mohoney writes that:

Part of the intent of McCauley and Stewart with this poem was to expose the ignorance of their mark, who failed to recognise the fact that “The emotions are not skilled workers” is not a genuine quote from Lenin; but as Wode-Douglass points out in the novel, “The Lenin line is more witty than preposterous.”

I wonder how many readers of the poems have actually realised that the quote is invented.


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