Vladimir Lenin devoted his life to leading a worker’s rebellion that would remove Tsar Nicholas II from power and spark a communist revolution. The events of 1917, in February and October, led to a chain reaction that would allow Lenin’s Bolshevik party to secure power. The overthrow of Tsar Nicholas II led to the installment of a weak transitional government and paved the way for the October revolution that was the birth of Soviet Russia. How did Lenin’s Bolshevik party, which was the minority party, overthrow the Provisional government?
Born in 1870 into a middle class family, Lenin’s ideological views were formed early in his life. In his last years of schooling, his older brother was arrested and executed for his association with the terrorist group “The People’s Will,” connecting him with a plot to assassinate Tsar Alexander III. Profoundly affected, Lenin devoted himself to reading books left behind by his brother, including the writings of Marx and Engels. Initially, Lenin was banned from attending Karzan University, due to his relation to a criminal of the state. When he was eventually admitted he had already become entrenched in Marxist teachings, and by the time he graduated his political views would firmly be rooted in Marxist Theory. Shortly after graduating, Lenin was arrested and sent to exile in Siberia in 1896, for his collaboration with the socialist organization, “Union of Struggle.” Between the years 1900-1917, Lenin traveled throughout Europe writing, and in Geneva he worked with Leon Trotsky and George Plekhanov on ISKRA (spark) the newspaper of the socialist movement. In 1902, he published his most influential work, “What is to be Done, The Burning Questions of Our Movement.” which lay forth several of his additions to Marxist ideology.
Marxism and Leninism
Lenin contributed to the political theory of Marxism, and contemporary political scientists refer to it as Marxism-Leninism. Lenin’s ideologies would form the basis of his own Social Democratic Party, labeled the Bolshevik faction, which split from the party in 1903. Marxism-Leninism is considered an adaptation of pure Marxist doctrine. Lenin applied principles of Marxism to contemporary Russian struggles. The core value of Marxism was that the Revolutionary Proletariat class would rise up and rebel against Capitalism. Marxism states that all history is a history of class struggles, occurring between social classes in society. New classes rise up and triumph through revolution, which is typically violent due to the last class not wanting to give up power. According to Marx, there are stages of society, primitive communism, (hunter-gatherer societies) barbarism, (rule by chiefs) slave societies, feudalism, capitalism, socialism, and the end goal being communism. In the capitalist stage, the proletariats overthrow the capitalists, and establish a socialist order which evolves into Communism. Communism, defined simply, is the public ownership of means of production, distribution, and exchange. In the first stages of socialism, the state is ruled by a dictatorship of the proletariat. Lenin’s theories of Marxism differed on several points from pure Marxism. Lenin recognized that in Russia, society had not evolved exactly as Marx had envisioned and made provisions to explain Imperialism. Changes to Marxist theory were made necessary due to the Imperialist stage that Lenin recognized Russia to be in. According to Lenin, Imperialism was the highest stage, and the final stage of capitalism. In “What is to be done?” Lenin described how it was necessary to create a revolution, rather than the Marxist ideal that one would naturally occur. Lenin added that there was the need for a professional group of revolutionaries to lead the working class to lead them to a violent overthrow of capitalism, where afterwards the Proletariat would rule, and it would be the first step towards communism. On the other hand, Karl Marx implied that...
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[ 1 ]. Maurice Dobb, “Lenin,” The Slavonic and East European Review, The Slavonic Year-Book 19, No. 53/54(1940):35.
[ 2 ]. Michael Curtis, The Great Political Theories. (New York: Harper Collins, 1981.) p. 360
[ 3 ]
[ 6 ]. Gregory L. Freeze. Russia, A History,3rd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) p 263
[ 7 ]
[ 8 ]. Vladimir Il 'ich Lenin, Essential Works of Lenin: "What is to be done?" and other writings. edited by Henry M. Christman. (New York: Courier Dover Publication; 1987) Ebook edition.
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