Niccolo Machiavelli had a great vision of the man who would unite Italy and rule with cunning and an iron hand when he authored The Prince. Unfortunately Italy never birthed a son capable of taking the reins of power in such a form as Machiavelli prophesied, however Russia did. Vladimir Ilich Lenin was this man, becoming the first head of perhaps one of the most Machiavellian governments ever attempted, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It was if he had stepped out of the pages of The Prince, representing the key pillars of the Machiavellian idea. When the Communist government finally came to fruition, Lenin was both loved and feared as the head of the new state. Furthermore, the revere that Lenin commanded in his time has carried on even beyond his time; this only becoming a reality by following the precepts set by Machiavelli in the twenty first chapter of The Prince.

When Machiavelli suggested that it is desirable to be both loved and feared it seemed like an impossible paradox that could never be achieved. Through his work in the Saint Petersburg union, Lenin gained the reputation as a great Socialist thinker and supporter of the proletariat. (Encarta, “Lenin, Vladimir Ilich”, p. 2) Machiavelli wrote that “…a prince, so long as he keeps his subjects united and loyal, ought not to mind the reproach of cruelty,” a thesis which Lenin applied to the suppression of the uprisings by rival factions in pre-soviet Russia. (Maciavelli: A method of Power, p. 45) The advent of fear inspired by the ruthless destruction of rebel forces, or the “White Russians”, served a dual purpose, not only to inspire awe, but also to give some credence to the new government. Conjoined with this new trepidation was the love that was felt for Vladimir Lenin by his followers. Lenin’s motivation for the revolution was one of great philanthropic merit, to increase the standard of living for the common peasant in Russia. Many times the new Soviet government sought to “...entertain the people with festivals and spectacles at convenient seasons of the year,” another practice which gained favorable standing for the illustrious head of the government. (The Prince, p. 33) At his apex, Lenin was revered as a Christ- Like liberator, shaking the Soviet Union free of the shackles of imperialism.

On the subject of gaining renown, Machiavelli made an important statement which seems to describe Lenin flawlessly; that of “Nothing makes a prince so much esteemed as great enterprises and setting a fine example.” (The Prince, p. 31) Of all the qualities that were possessed by Lenin, his conviction and devout perusal of the dream of Russian socialism was one of his most important traits. He was the perfect revolutionary intellectual, much like those involved with the American Revolution, letting the philosophy of the revolution be his guiding light and not personal ambition. Also, Lenin was very keen witted, an important quality to possess if one has plans to establish a new government. As was cited in The Prince, a ruler should “Never let any Government imagine that it can choose perfectly safe courses rather let it expect to have to take very doubtful ones…” (The Prince, p. 32) This is exactly what Lenin did, arming his country for the worst possible scenario and seeking to control all ends of a situation. Together with an innumerable number of examples, the aforementioned instances provide a plausible reason for the renown that Vladimir Lenin was given by the people for not only his own country, but those of other lands as well.

Lenin was not without fault however, for he breaks several of the important rules that Machiavelli claims are imperative. As stated in The Prince “…above all, he refrains from the property of others, because men forget more quickly the death of a father than the loss of a father’s estate.” (Machiavelli: A Method of Power, p. 45) When the Communist party came to power in Russia they seized the property of landlords and distributed it to the proletarians, breaking this cardinal rule of Machiavellian governing. Another blunder made by Lenin was his fundamental following of the Communist doctrine and blindness to human nature. The belief that man would work for reasons other than his own personal gains proved faulty and caused the economic power of the country to suffer, in turn causing the people to become cross with the new government. Lenin’s long time associate Leon Trotsky saved the fledgling government from usurpation by authoring the New Economic Policy (NEP), which reinserted some extent private interest into the economy.

In retrospect, one can clearly see, that voiding a few errors and misguided forays, Lenin was perhaps the most Machiavellian of all historical leaders. He was loved and feared by those he ruled over, crushing those who hated or desired to see the new government overthrown with unmatched cunning. He gained great renown with his peers and all who would study history for being a fine ruler. Lenin was imperfect, and his blunders could have cost the Soviet government its life, however such failures were averted though the group of associates that facilitated recovery methods.

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