Captain Moonlight: Old revolutionaries never die, they simply melt away

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The Independent Online
THERE has been much discussion this past week about Lenin and whether his embalmed body, the great icon for the former faithful in Red Square now under threat of removal, is Lenin or wax. Captain Moonlight can help. I have been on this case before. My inquiries began some years ago with the visit of a British tourist to the great mausoleum. He was shuffling past with the masses to pay his respects, when, suddenly, to his horror, Lenin's ear dropped off. There was much consternation and the mausoleum was immediately closed. What was afoot? The Captain investigated.

My lucky break, after a great deal of unrelenting and skilful investigative journalism, was to discover that a West German firm had sold a fish freezing plant - I promise you - to the Russians which had been adapted to keep the great man's body at a low, controlled temperature. My informant, who worked for the firm, explained that the original pickling of Lenin in 1924 had been a bit of a botched job and that the body was now some 60 per cent wax. This meant that he was in great danger of melting from the body heat of the visiting masses, hence the refrigeration. Accidents could happen, however, viz the tumbling ear, which was obviously wax and a weak spot.

The Russians still claim that they know the secret of long-term embalming, but my advice is to be sceptical. You should know, too, that a blue cloth covers Vladimir Ilich's legs. Fishy, I should say.

It is these sorts of problems which explain the dearth ofex- world leaders on display in the capitals of the world. The Chinese have had dreadful trouble with Mao, who is shrinking at quite a rate, despite the claim by the mausoleum's director that it is 'an illusion caused by peculiar spatial and lighting effects in the hall'.

Ho Chi Minh was done by the Russians, and is in quite a fair condition. The sensitive should not inquire too deeply into the fate of Forbes Burnham, once on display in Guyana. Sufficient just to mention the tropical heat. None of this deterred Madam Marcos from embalming her husband with a view to permanent exhibition, another unhappy prospect.

There is, though, another way. In Irian Jaya, in Indonesia, according to Norman Lewis, in his new book An Empire of the East, 'persons of great power were not cremated in the usual way but smoked over a slow fire for several months and thereafter hung from the eaves of their houses. There they continued to keep a benevolent eye on the community for decades, even centuries . . .' Think about it, John. It could be a real winner.

(Photograph omitted)