The Rise of Communism in Russia

Topics: Soviet Union, Communism, October Revolution Pages: 8 (2447 words) Published: October 8, 1999
The Rise of Communism in Russia

"Unless we accept the claim that LeninÕs coup dՎtat gave birth to an entirely new state, and indeed to a new era in the history of mankind, we must recognize in todayÕs Soviet Union the old empire of the Russians -- the only empire that survived into the mid 1980's" (Luttwak, 1).

In their Communist Manifesto of 1848, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels applied the term communism to a final stage of socialism in which all class differences would disappear and humankind would live in harmony. Marx and Engels claimed to have discovered a scientific approach to socialism based on the laws of history. They declared that the course of history was determined by the clash of opposing forces rooted in the economic system and the ownership of property. Just as the feudal system had given way to capitalism, so in time capitalism would give way to socialism. The class struggle of the future would be between the bourgeoisie, who were the capitalist employers, and the proletariat, who were the workers. The struggle would end, according to Marx, in the socialist revolution and the attainment of full communism (Groiler's Encyclopedia).

Socialism, of which "Marxism-Leninism" is a takeoff, originated in the West. Designed in France and Germany, it was brought into Russia in the middle of the nineteenth century and promptly attracted support among the country's educated, public-minded elite, who at that time were called intelligentsia (Pipes, 21). After Revolution broke out over Europe in 1848 the modern working class appeared on the scene as a major historical force. However, Russia remained out of the changes that Europe was experiencing. As a socialist movement and inclination, the Russian Social-Democratic Party continued the traditions of all the Russian Revolutions of the past, with the goal of conquering political freedom (Daniels 7).

As early as 1894, when he was twenty-four, Lenin had become a revolutionary agitator and a convinced Marxist. He exhibited his new faith and his polemical talents in a diatribe of that year against the peasant-oriented socialism of the Populists led by N.K. Mikhiaiovsky (Wren, 3). While Marxism had been winning adherents among the Russian revolutionary intelligentsia for more than a decade previously, a claimed Marxist party was bit organized until 1898. In that year a "congress" of nine men met at Minsk to proclaim the establishment of the Russian Social Democratic Worker's Party. The Manifesto issued in the name of the congress after the police broke it up was drawn up by the economist Peter Struve, a member of the moderate "legal Marxist" group who soon afterward left the Marxist movement altogether. The manifesto is indicative of the way Marxism was applied to Russian conditions, and of the special role for the proletariat (Pipes, 11). The first true congress of the Russian Social Democratic Workers' Party was the Second. It convened in Brussels in the summer of 1903, but was forced by the interference of the Belgian authorities to move to London, where the proceedings were concluded. The Second Congress was the occasion for bitter wrangling among the representatives of various Russian Marxist Factions, and ended in a deep split that was mainly caused by Lenin -- his personality, his drive for power in the movement, and his "hard" philosophy of the disciplined party organization. At the close of the congress Lenin commanded a temporary majority for his faction and seized upon the label "Bolshevik" (Russian for Majority), while his opponents who inclined to the "soft" or more democratic position became known as the "Mensheviks" or minority (Daniels, 19). Though born only in 1879, Trotsky had gained a leading place among the Russian Social-Democrats by the time of the Second party Congress in 1903. He represented ultra-radical sentiment that could not reconcile itself to Lenin's stress on the...

Cited: Daniels, Robert V., A Documentary History of Communism. New York:
Random House Publishing, 1960.
Farah, Mounir, The Human Experience. Columbus: Bell & Howess Co.,
Pipes, Richard, Survival is Not Enough. New York: S&S Publishing,
Stoessinger, John G., Nations in Darkness. Boston: Howard Books,
Wren, Christopher S., The End of the Line. San Francisco:
Blackhawk Publishing, 1988.
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