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The Rise of Communism in Russia

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The Rise of Communism In Russia

"Unless we accept the claim that Lenin's coup d'etat gave birth

to an entirely new state, and indeed to a new era in the history of

mankind, we must recognize in today's 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 party organization.

Trotsky stayed with the Menshevik faction until he joined Lenin in

1917. From that point on, he acomidated himself in large measure to

Lenin's philosophy of party dictatorship, but his reservations came to

the surface again in the years after his fall from power (Stoessinger,




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