Bolshevism and Menshevism

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Related to Bolshevism and Menshevism: Bolshevik, Bolshevists

Bolshevism and Menshevism

(bōl`shəvĭzəm, bŏl`–, mĕn`shəvĭzəm), the two main branches of Russian socialismsocialism,
general term for the political and economic theory that advocates a system of collective or government ownership and management of the means of production and distribution of goods.
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 from 1903 until the consolidation of the Bolshevik dictatorship under LeninLenin, Vladimir Ilyich
, 1870–1924, Russian revolutionary, the founder of Bolshevism and the major force behind the Revolution of Oct., 1917. Early Life
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 in the civil war of 1918–20. The Russian Social Democratic Labor party, secretly formed at a congress at Minsk in 1898, was based on the doctrines of MarxismMarxism,
economic and political philosophy named for Karl Marx. It is also known as scientific (as opposed to utopian) socialism. Marxism has had a profound impact on contemporary culture; modern communism is based on it, and most modern socialist theories derive from it (see
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. At the second party congress, held at Brussels and then London in 1903, Lenin's faction gained a majority. His group was thereafter known as the Bolsheviki [members of the majority], and his opponents as the Mensheviki [members of the minority], although the Bolsheviks promptly lost their numerical superiority.

Lenin favored a small, disciplined party of professional revolutionaries; the Mensheviks wanted a loosely organized mass party. In a pamphlet published in 1905, Lenin outlined his concept of revolution in Russia: since the Russian bourgeoisie was too weak to lead its own revolution, the proletarians and peasants must unite to overthrow the czarist regime and establish a dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry. The Mensheviks, led by PlekhanovPlekhanov, Georgi Valentinovich
, 1857–1918, Russian revolutionary and social philosopher. He was a leader in introducing Marxist theory to Russia and is often called the "Father of Russian Marxism.
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, believed that Russia could not pass directly from its backward state to a rule by the proletariat and that first an intermediary bourgeois regime must be developed. These differences were not always clear-cut, and many Socialist leaders, such as TrotskyTrotsky, Leon
, 1879–1940, Russian Communist revolutionary, one of the principal leaders in the establishment of the USSR; his original name was Lev Davidovich Bronstein. Early Career

Trotsky was born of Jewish parents in the S Ukraine.
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, passed from one group to the other and back again.

The Russian RevolutionRussian Revolution,
violent upheaval in Russia in 1917 that overthrew the czarist government. Causes

The revolution was the culmination of a long period of repression and unrest.
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 of 1905 was a common effort of all revolutionary and reformist movements. In the first Duma of 1906, which was boycotted by the Social Democrats, the liberal Constitutional Democrats were the strongest party, but in 1907 the Social Democrats took part in the elections. In 1912 the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks formally became separate parties. In World War I, the Bolsheviks hoped for the defeat of czarist Russia and sought to transform the conflict into an international civil war that would bring the proletariat to power. The right wing of the Mensheviks supported Russia's war effort; the left wing called for pacifism.

In the Russian Revolution of 1917 the Mensheviks participated in the KerenskyKerensky, Aleksandr Feodorovich
, 1881–1970, Russian revolutionary. A lawyer, he was elected to the fourth duma in 1912 as a representative of the moderate Labor party.
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 provisional government. Lenin, returning from exile in April, declared that Russia was ripe for an immediate socialist revolution. The Bolsheviks gained majorities in the important sovietssoviet,
primary unit in the political organization of the former USSR. The term is the Russian word for council. The first soviets were revolutionary committees organized by Russian socialists in the Revolution of 1905 among striking factory workers.
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 and overthrew the government in the October Revolution. The Mensheviks opposed this coup and participated in the short-lived Constituent Assembly (Jan., 1918), but they generally refused to side with the anti-Bolshevik forces during the civil war. The Mensheviks were suppressed by 1921. Meanwhile, in 1918, the Bolsheviks became the Russian Communist partyCommunist party,
in Russia and the Soviet Union, political party that until 1991 exercised all effective power within the Soviet Union, and, as the oldest and for a long time the only ruling Communist party in the world, carried heavy or controlling influence over the Communist
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See A. B. Ulam, The Bolsheviks (1965, repr. 1968); L. Schapiro, The Communist Party of the Soviet Union (2d ed., rev. 1970); A. Gleason et al., ed., Bolshevik Culture (1989).