On a November evening in 1916 Vladimir I. Lenin (1870–1924), coming from his Zurich residence in exile, paid the city of Basel a little-known visit. The outward purpose of the visit was to give an address to Russian academics, workers and businesspeople. The gathering was held on the ground floor of what today is the restaurant “Chez Donati” at the Johanniter Bridge. Lenin’s speech, which called for the fall of Czarism, received little response. Lenin took his leave with the words: “You will be hearing more from me.” He stayed the night at the Blaukreuzhaus, today’s Hotel Rochat, where the Saturday seminars of Der Europäer are regularly held. There it was possible in those days to eat and stay overnight cheaply. The next morning he visited the Public Art Collection and spent a long time looking thoughtfully at a picture that plays an important role in Dostoyevski’s novel The Idiot: “The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb” by Hans Holbein the Younger.1
Preparing the way for the “socialist experiment”
On 15 March the following year, after the February Revolution (23 Feb. – 3 March O.S.; 8-16 March N.S.), came the fall of the Czar.
In April in Zürich Lenin began his legendary journey to Russia in the sealed carriage through Germany and Finland; he arrived in Petrograd on 16 April.
A hundred years later, Bolshevism seems to have passed into history, even if the wounds which its stone-cold intellectuality inflicted on the true Russian folk soul have still not healed.
In Lenin’s Mausoleum in Moscow, which is currently being renovated, the illusion of life that is his mummified corpse in its suit and tie can be viewed daily. He who once viewed the “Corpus Christi” has become a century-old corpse himself.
A new “Leninism” in the West
Yet the stench of the decomposing corpse of Bolshevism is still with us. And today it wafts precisely from that same West, which in its materialistic spiritual eclipse, conceived the socialist experiment and through tools like Lenin exported it to the West. Stephen Bannon, Chief Strategist in the Trump Administration, has openly boasted: “Darkness is good (…) It only helps us when [the opposition] get it wrong. When they’re blind to who we are and what we’re doing.” And: “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”2 Such admissions are not a good omen from the innermost circles of the new US administration.
…and a voice of reconciliation from the East
How differently things sound today from the East! At the recent Munich Security Conference, the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov called for a peaceful understanding with the USA and spoke of a “post-West world order”: At the end of his remarks he said: “Right now we need dialogue more than ever on all the difficult issues. We need to find compromises. (…) Russia is not looking for conflicts with anyone (…) We want to strive for dialogue to find understanding based on mutual benefit (…) we can simply overcome the ‘post-Truth’ period…let it be the post-fake era.”3,4
Much will depend today on whether the air of resurrection can enter into our thinking and feeling and suppress the putrefying stench of the dead intellect
1 Adolf Wanner, Berühmte Gäste in Basel, Buchverlag der Basler Zeitung, 1982, p. 91 ff
2 Quoted from Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 5. 2. 1917. Bannon, however, seems to have been speaking in a joking, ironic way in making these remarks.
4 See this New York Times article on Bannon for another view of him: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/25/opinion/what-does-steve-bannon-want html?_r=2&mtrref=undefined&assetType=opinion