In 1908 Vladimir Ilych Lenin lived at 36 Tavistock Place in Camden. That this monster lived there is a matter of grim fascination. Then again, I suppose, the notorious Camden Town Murder that took place a year earlier of prostitute Emily Dimmock at 29 Agar Grove also has a certain grisly local curiosity. Whether something is of interest is different to it being a matter of pride.
This distinction appears to be lost on Labour-run Camden Council. The Mayor of Camden, Labour councillor, Cllr Heather Johnson recently went along with Professor Bill Bowring, President of the Society for Co-operation in Russian and Soviet Studies to unveil a plaque at the building.
A Conservative councillor, Cllr Andrew Marshall objects not to Lenin's residence being marked but that no acknowledgement was made of the Communist tyrant's appalling crimes.
Cllr Marshall says:
The one free-ish election following the October Revolution was ignored by Lenin’s Bolsheviks because they didn’t win. Thousands died in the red terror he instigated. The descriptions of Cheka terror are virtually beyond description: victims were slowly lowered into furnaces or boiling water, buried alive, or covered in water to become living ice statues in the cold.
There is considerable continuity between the system of terror established under Lenin and the later crimes of Stalin. Indeed perhaps the scale of Stalin’s crimes has overshadowed just how terrible Lenin was.
Of course, our sensitivity to historical figures decreases as they recede further into history. But there will no doubt be people in Camden whose parents and grandparents suffered terribly under Lenin and the dictatorship he established. There are now monuments to the red terror in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
I would rather the plaque had made some references to those tortured and killed under Lenin’s orders. I just ask: had Franco lived in Camden, would we be comfortable erecting a plaque to him?
How many lives would have been saved if Lenin had stayed put in Bloomsbury? If Kerensky had not been toppled in 1917? Estimates of the number of deaths as a result of Communism come in around the hundred million mark. Camden Council feel that mentioning the genocide their favoured son was responsible for would have been bad manners. Chortling at the revolutionary frisson over the canapes at the civic reception was fine but too much detail would be unseemly.
The response to Cllr Marshall has been interesting. Professor Bowring, rather than acknowledging the overwhelming evidence of Lenin's responsibility for mass murder, says it is "highly questionable."
Far too many Conservatives fail to speak out in the way that Cllr Marshall has. They will offer staunch Conservative views over breakfast with the marmalade and the Daily Telegraph, or at dinner parties, or in the pub. Yet in public don't like to make a fuss. That is how some nominally Conservative councils end up nodding through some pretty odious left wing policies.
As Edmund Burke said:
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
Cllr Marshall was right to make a stand.