Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
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Lenin, Vladimir Ilyich
Theoretician and Revolutionary
In a pamphlet titled What Is to Be Done? (1902) Lenin argued that only a disciplined party of professional revolutionaries could bring socialism to Russia. In 1903, at a meeting of the Russian Social Democratic Labor party held in London, the party split into two factions, the Bolsheviks, headed by Lenin, and the Mensheviks (see Bolshevism and Menshevism). Lenin continued to be the chief exponent of Bolshevik thought in the long struggles for supremacy against Plekhanov, Kautsky, and other less radical Marxists. With the outbreak of revolution in 1905, Lenin returned to Russia. His view that the Bolsheviks should take part in the second duma prevailed in 1907, but he left Russia later that year and subsequently mostly engaged in complex theoretical disputes.
Lenin was in Switzerland during the early years of World War I. In his view the war was an imperialist struggle; since imperialism was “the final stage of capitalism,” it was a historical necessity that the war would offer opportunities for a revolution of the proletariat. Consequently, Lenin urged the proletariat to oppose the war by an international civil war against the capitalist class. After the outbreak of the Russian Revolution of Feb., 1917, the German government allowed Lenin to cross Germany en route from Switzerland to Sweden in a sealed railway car. By aiding his return to Russia, the Germans hoped (correctly) to disrupt the Russian war effort.
Lenin concluded that Russia was now ripe for a socialist revolution, arguing that the moderate provisional government represented the bourgeoisie whereas the soviets represented, in his words, a revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry. In July, 1917, after an abortive mass uprising in Petrograd, Lenin was forced to flee to Finland. Although the Bolsheviks were represented only by a minority in the first all-Russian Soviet congress (June, 1917), they soon gained decisive power. In Nov., 1917 (October according to the Old Style), the Bolsheviks, led by Lenin, who had returned to Petrograd, overthrew Kerensky's weak and disorganized regime and established a Soviet government.
Lenin became chairman of the Council of People's Commissars and virtual dictator; Trotsky, Stalin, and Rykov were the other chief members. The Bolsheviks (who became the Communist party) asserted that the October Revolution had established a proletarian dictatorship. The new government's first acts were to propose an armistice with Germany and to abolish private ownership of land and distribute it among the peasants. Banks were nationalized, a supreme council was established to revive the dislocated economy, and workers' control over factory production was introduced. Atheism officially replaced doctrinal religion. All opposition was ruthlessly suppressed by the Cheka, or political police, under Dzerzhinsky.
Lenin fulfilled his promise of peace by accepting the humiliating treaty of Brest-Litovsk (Mar., 1918). However, civil war in Russia and a war with Poland prevented peace from coming to Russia until late 1920. In 1919, Lenin established the Third International, or Comintern, to further world revolution. The policy of “war Communism” prevailed until 1921. It brought extensive nationalization, food requisitioning, and control over industry. In 1921, in an attempt to boost the economy, Lenin launched the New Economic Policy (NEP), which allowed some private enterprise.
By 1922, Lenin had eliminated all organized opposition and had silenced hostile factions within the party. In fact, Lenin had set up a dictatorship of the Communist party, which controlled the hierarchy of local, regional, and central soviets. He retained the post of chairman of the Council of People's Commissars and was a member of the ruling Politburo of the Communist party until his death.
The strain of Lenin's labors destroyed his health. He suffered a stroke in 1922; a later stroke (1923) deprived him of speech. In a testament criticizing Stalin, written near the end of his life, he recommended Stalin's removal from the post of general secretary of the party. After his death (Jan. 21, 1924) this testament was suppressed, and Stalin emerged victorious in the contest for succession. Lenin's remains are in a mausoleum on Red Square.
Lenin's voluminous writings and speeches are available in collected and selected English editions and in individual pamphlets. See also Memories of Lenin (1930) by N. K. Krupskaya (Lenin's wife); biographies by L. Trotsky (1925, repr. 1971), R. Service (2000), and V. Sebestyen (2017); A. B. Ulam, Lenin and the Bolsheviks (1966); E. Kingson-Mann, Lenin and the Problem of Marxist Peasant Revolution (1983); A. G. Meyer, Leninism (1986); L. Schapiro and P. Reddaway, ed., Lenin (1987); P. LeBlanc, Lenin and the Revolutionary Party (1989); R. Service, Lenin: A Political Life (1985); H. Rappaport, Conspirator: Lenin In Exile (2010).
Lenin, Vladimir Il’yich
(pseudonym of V. I. Ul’ianov). Born Apr. 10 (22), 1870, in Simbirsk, present-day Ul’ianovsk; died Jan. 21, 1924, in the village of Gorki, present-day Gorki Leninskie, Moscow Oblast. Great proletarian revolutionary and thinker, continuer of the cause of Marx and Engels, organizer of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, founder of the soviet socialist state, and leader and teacher of the working people of the entire world.
Lenin’s paternal grandfather, N. V. Ul’ianov, was a serf from Nizhny Novgorod Province who later worked as a tailor in Astrakhan. Lenin’s father, I. N. Ul’ianov, after graduating from the University of Kazan, taught in secondary schools in Penza and Nizhny Novgorod. He became a school inspector and later director of public schools in Simbirsk Province. Lenin’s mother, M. A. Ul’ianova (maiden name, Blank), was the daughter of a physician. Educated at home, she earned a teacher’s certificate by passing the examination for extern students and devoted herself totally to the education of her children. Lenin’s elder brother, A. I. Ul’ianov, was executed in 1887 for participating in a plot to assassinate Tsar Alexander III. His sisters, A. I. Ul’ianova-Elizarova and M. I. Ul’ianova, and his younger brother, D. I. Ul’ianov, became prominent figures in the Communist Party.
From 1879 to 1887, Lenin attended the Simbirsk Gymnasium. From an early age he rebelled against the tsarist system and social and national oppression. Progressive Russian writings— the works of V. G. Belinskii, A. I. Herzen, N. A. Dobroliubov, D. I. Pisarev, and especially N. G. Chernyshevskii—strongly influenced the development of his revolutionary views. He became acquainted with Marxist literature through his elder brother. Upon graduating from the Gymnasium with the gold medal, Lenin entered the University of Kazan, but in December 1887 he was arrested, expelled from the university, and banished to the village of Kokushkino in Kazan Province for taking an active part in a revolutionary student gathering. From that time Lenin devoted his entire life to the struggle against autocracy and capitalism and to the emancipation of the working people from oppression and exploitation. In October 1888 he returned to Kazan and joined one of the Marxist circles organized by N. E. Fedoseev, in which the works of Marx, Engels, and Ple-khanov were studied and discussed. The writings of Marx and Engels played a decisive role in shaping his world view, and he became a confirmed Marxist.
After independent study, Lenin passed the law examinations at the University of St. Petersburg in 1891 and began to practice law as an assistant attorney in Samara Province, where the Ul’ianov family had moved in 1889. Here he organized a Marxist circle, made contact with revolutionary youth in other cities of the Volga Region, and presented papers opposing the Narodnik (Populist) movement. Lenin’s earliest surviving work, the article “New Economic Developments in Peasant Life,” dates from the Samara period.
In late August 1893, Lenin moved to St. Petersburg and joined a Marxist circle whose members included S. I. Radchenko, P. K. Zaporozhets, and G. M. Krzhizhanovskii. His law practice as an assistant attorney served as a cover for his revolutionary activity. His unshakable faith in the victory of the working class, vast learning, thorough understanding of Marxism, and ability to apply it to the vital issues stirring the masses won him the respect of the St. Petersburg Marxists and made him their leader. He met such advanced workers as I. V. Babushkin and V. A. Shelgunov, led workers’ study circles, and explained the need for a shift from Marxist propaganda among small circles to revolutionary agitation among the broad proletarian masses.
Lenin was the first Russian Marxist to propose as an immediate practical goal the creation of a working-class party in Russia, and he led the efforts of revolutionary Social Democrats to accomplish this task. Lenin held that such a party must be a new type of proletarian party, in its principles, methods, and forms of activity meeting the needs of the new epoch—the epoch of imperialism and socialist revolution.
Perceiving the central idea of Marxism concerning the historic mission of the working class as the gravedigger of capitalism and builder of communist society, Lenin devoted the entire strength of his creative genius, great erudition, colossal energy, and extraordinary capacity for work to selflessly serving the proletarian cause. He became a professional revolutionary and began to develop as a leader of the working class.
Lenin wrote What the “Friends of the People” Are and How They Fight the Social Democrats in 1894 and The EconomicContent of Narodnichestvo and the Criticism of It in Mr. Struve’s Book (The Reflection of Marxism in Bourgeois Literature) in late 1894 and early 1895. Already in these early major writings Lenin revealed a creative approach to the theory and practice of the workers’ movement. He devastatingly attacked the subjectivism of the Narodniks and the objectivism of the “legal Marxists,” demonstrated a consistently Marxist approach to the analysis of Russian reality, defined the tasks of the Russian proletariat, developed the idea of an alliance between the working class and the peasantry, and showed the need for creating a genuinely revolutionary party in Russia. In April 1895, Lenin went abroad to make contact with the Emancipation of Labor group. He met G. V. Plekhanov in Switzerland, Wilhelm Liebknecht in Germany, and Paul Lafargue in France, among other leaders of the international workers’ movement. Returning from abroad in September 1895, he visited Vilnius, Moscow, and Orekhovo-Zuevo, where he established contact with local Social Democrats. In the fall of 1895, on Lenin’s initiative and under his leadership, the Marxist circles in St. Petersburg united into a single organization, the St. Petersburg Union of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class, the embryo of the future revolutionary proletarian party. The union was the first organization in Russia to combine scientific socialism with the mass workers’ movement.
On the night of Dec. 8 (20), 1895, Lenin and his co-workers in the Union of Struggle were arrested and imprisoned. Lenin continued to guide the union from prison, writing the “Draft and Explanation of a Program for the Social Democratic Party” and a number of articles and leaflets and preparing material for his book The Development of Capitalism in Russia. In February 1897, Lenin was exiled for three years to the village of Shu-shenskoe, Minusinsk District, Eniseisk Province. N. K. Krupskaia was likewise sentenced to exile for her revolutionary activity. As Lenin’s fiancee she was also sent to Shushenskoe, where they were married. Here Lenin established and maintained ties with Social Democrats in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Voronezh, and other cities and with the Emancipation of Labor group, corresponded with exiled Social Democrats in Siberia and northern Russia, and gathered around himself the exiled Social Democrats in Minusinsk District.
In exile Lenin wrote more than 30 works, including his book The Development of Capitalism in Russia and his pamphlet The Tasks of the Russian Social Democrats, which were tremendously important for developing the party’s program, strategy, and tactics. The First Congress of the RSDLP, held in Minsk in 1898, proclaimed the formation of the Social Democratic Party in Russia and issued the “Manifesto of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party.” Lenin subscribed to the basic tenets of the manifesto. However, no party had as yet been formed. Held in the absence of Lenin and other prominent Marxists, the congress was unable to work out a party program and rules or to overcome fragmentation within the Social Democratic movement. Lenin developed a practical plan for organizing a Marxist party in Russia, holding that the most important means for achieving this objective must be an illegal political newspaper for all Russia. In striving for the creation of a new type of proletarian party that would be uncompromising in its attitude toward opportunism, Lenin waged a struggle against the revisionists in the international Social Democratic movement, including E. Bernstein, and their supporters in Russia, the Economists. In 1899 he wrote “A Protest by Russian Social Democrats” opposing Economism. The “Protest” was discussed and endorsed by 17 exiled Marxists.
After completing his term of exile Lenin left Shushenskoe on Jan. 29 (Feb. 10), 1900. On his way to a new place of residence he stopped in Ufa, Moscow, and other cities and visited St. Petersburg illegally, everywhere meeting with Social Democrats. Settling in Pskov in February 1900, he was active in organizing a newspaper, gaining support for it in a number of cities. He went abroad in July 1900 and arranged for the publication of the newspaper Iskra (The Spark), over which he exercised direct control. The newspaper was exceptionally important for the ideological and organizational preparation of the revolutionary proletarian party and for dissociating it from the opportunists. It served to unite party forces and train party cadres. Lenin later observed that “the finest elements in the class-conscious proletariat sided with Iskra” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 26, p. 344).
Between 1900 and 1905, Lenin lived in Munich, London, and Geneva. In December 1901 he first used the pseudonym Lenin, in signing one of his articles in Iskra. He used other pseudonyms as well, including V. Ilyin, V. Frei, Iv. Petrov, K. Tulin, and Karpov.
Of great importance in the struggle to create a new type of party was Lenin’s What Is to Be Done? Burning Questions of Our Movement (1902), in which he criticized Economism and dealt with the chief problems of building the party and its ideology and politics. He also elucidated crucial theoretical questions in the articles “The Agrarian Program of Russian Social Democracy” (1902) and “The National Question in Our Program” (1903).
Under Lenin’s leadership the Iskra editorial board drafted a party program calling for the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat in order to carry out the socialist transformation of society, a demand absent from the programs of the Western European Social Democratic parties. Lenin wrote a draft of the rules of the RSDLP, outlined the procedure of the forthcoming congress, and drafted almost all its resolutions. At the Second Congress of the RSDLP, held in 1903, the process of uniting the revolutionary Marxist organizations was completed and the party of the Russian working class was founded on the ideological, political, and organizational principles worked out by Lenin. A new type of proletarian party was created, the Bolshevik Party. “As a current of political thought and as a political party, Bolshevism has existed since 1903,” Lenin was to write in 1920 (ibid., vol. 41, p. 6). After the congress Lenin began to combat Menshevism. In One Step Forward, Two Steps Back (1904) he exposed the antiparty activity of the Mensheviks and laid down the organizational principles of the new type of proletarian party.
In the Revolution of 1905–07, Lenin directed the work of the Bolshevik Party, which provided leadership for the masses. At the Third (1905), Fourth (1906), and Fifth (1907) Congresses of the RSDLP, in his book Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution (1905), and in numerous articles, Lenin developed and substantiated the revolutionary strategy and tactics of the Bolshevik Party and criticized the Mensheviks’ opportunist line. On Nov. 8 (21), 1905, he arrived in St. Petersburg, where he directed the work of the Central and St. Petersburg Bolshevik committees and the preparations for armed uprising. He also took charge of the Bolshevik newspapers Vpered (Forward), Proletarii (Proletarian), and Novaia Zhizn’ (New Life). Police persecution forced Lenin to move to Kuokkala, Finland, in the summer of 1906, and in December 1907 he had to emigrate again, to Switzerland. In late 1908 he went to Paris.
During the years of reaction (1908–10), in order to preserve the illegal Bolshevik Party, Lenin fought against the Menshevik Liquidators and Otzovists, the schismatic activities of the Trotskyists, and compromise with the opportunists. He thoroughly analyzed the 1905–07 Revolution. At this time he also repulsed a reactionary offensive against the party’s ideological foundations. In Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, published in 1909, Lenin further developed dialectical materialism and exposed the sophisticated tricks of bourgeois philosophers in defense of idealism and the revisionist attempts to distort Marxist philosophy.
The end of 1910 saw a new upsurge in the revolutionary movement in Russia. On Lenin’s initiative the newspaper Zvezda (Star) was founded in St. Petersburg in December 1910, and on Apr. 22 (May 5), 1912, the first issue of the legal Bolshevik workers’ daily Pravda (Truth) appeared. In order to train party cadres Lenin organized a party school in Longjumeau, near Paris, in 1911, delivering 29 lectures. In January 1912, under Lenin’s leadership, the Sixth All-Russian Conference of the RSDLP was held in Prague, at which the Menshevik Liquidators were expelled from the party and the RSDLP’s tasks were defined in view of the revolutionary upsurge. To be closer to Russia, Lenin moved to Krakow in June 1912, from where he directed the Bureau of the RSDLP Central Committee in Russia, the editorial board of Pravda, and the Bolshevik group in the Fourth State Duma. Meetings of the RSDLP Central Committee and party functionaries on the most important issues of the revolutionary movement were held under Lenin’s leadership in December 1912 in Krakow and in September 1913 in Poronin. Lenin devoted much attention to developing the theory of the national question and to educating party members and the toiling masses in the spirit of proletarian internationalism. At this time he wrote the programmatic works “Critical Remarks on the National Question” (1913) and “The Right of Nations to Selfdetermination” (1914).
From October 1905 to 1912, Lenin represented the RSDLP in the International Socialist Bureau of the Second International. As head of the Bolshevik delegation, he was active in the international socialist congresses at Stuttgart (1907) and Copenhagen (1910). He resolutely combated opportunism in the international labor movement, rallying the left revolutionary elements, and devoted much attention to exposing militarism and developing Bolshevik tactics with respect to imperialist wars.
During World War I (1914–18), the Bolshevik Party led by Lenin raised high the banner of proletarian internationalism, unmasked the social chauvinism of the leaders of the Second International, and advanced the slogan of turning the imperialist war into a civil war. At the outbreak of the war Lenin was in Poronin. On July 26 (Aug. 8), 1914, he was arrested by the Austrian authorities after a false denunciation and jailed in Nowy Targ. With the assistance of Polish and Austrian Social Democrats, Lenin was released on Aug. 6 (19), and on Aug. 23 (Sept. 5) he left for Switzerland. He settled in Bern and later, from February 1916 to March (April) 1917, resided in Zürich.
In the manifesto of the RSDLP Central Committee, “The War and Russian Social Democracy,” and in such writings as “On the National Pride of the Great Russians,” “The Collapse of the Second International,” “Socialism and War,” “On the Slogan for a United States of Europe,” “Military Program of the Proletarian Revolution,” “The Discussion on Self-determination Summed Up,” and “A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism,” Lenin further developed the major tenets of Marxist theory and worked out the strategy and tactics of the Bolsheviks under wartime conditions. His Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916) provided the groundwork for the party’s theory and policies on the questions of war, peace, and revolution. During the war he devoted much attention to problems of philosophy (Philosophical Notebooks). Despite wartime difficulties, Lenin arranged for the regular publication of Sotsial-Demokrat, the party’s central organ, and established ties with party organizations in Russia and directed their work. At the international socialist conferences in Zimmerwald in August (September) 1915 and Kiental in April 1916, Lenin supported revolutionary Marxist principles and struggled against opportunism and centrism (Kautskyism). Rallying the revolutionary forces in the international workers’ movement, Lenin laid the foundations for the Third, Communist, International.
On receiving in Zürich on Mar. 2 (15), 1917, the first reliable news of the February Bourgeois-Democratic Revolution that had started in Russia, Lenin defined the new tasks of the proletariat and the Bolshevik Party. In his “Letters From Afar” he charted the party’s political course of shifting from the first, democratic, stage of the revolution to its second, socialist, stage, warned that it was inadmissible to support the bourgeois Provisional Government, and insisted on the necessity of giving all power to the soviets. On Apr. 3 (16), 1917, Lenin returned to Petrograd. Triumphantly greeted by thousands of workers and soldiers, he gave a short speech ending with the words “Long live the socialist revolution!”
On Apr. 4 (17) at a Bolshevik conference Lenin presented the document that has since become known as the “April Theses” (“The Tasks of the Proletariat in the Present Revolution”). In these theses, in his “Letters on Tactics,” and in his reports and speeches at the Seventh (April) All-Russian Conference of the RSDLP (Bolshevik), he developed a plan for the party in its struggle to transform the bourgeois-democratic revolution into a socialist revolution. He elaborated the party’s tactics under conditions of dual power, aiming at the peaceful development of the revolution, and advanced and defined the slogan “All Power to the Soviets!” Under Lenin’s leadership the party intensified its political and organizational work among the masses of workers, peasants, and soldiers. He directed the Central Committee of the RSDLP(B) and the party’s central press organ, Pravda, and addressed meetings and rallies. Between April and July 1917 he wrote more than 170 articles, pamphlets, appeals, and draft resolutions for Bolshevik conferences and for the party Central Committee. At the First All-Russian Congress of Soviets in June 1917, Lenin gave speeches on the war and on the attitude to be taken toward the bourgeois Provisional Government, exposing its imperialist and antipopular policies and the compromising views of the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries.
In July 1917, when dual power was abolished and all power passed into the hands of the counterrevolutionaries, the period of peaceful development of the revolution came to an end. On July 7 (20), the Provisional Government issued an order for Lenin’s arrest, and he was forced to go into hiding. Until Aug. 8 (21), 1917, he lived in a hut beyond Lake Razliv, near Petrograd, and thereafter, until early October, in Finland (Jalkala, Helsinki, and Vyborg). While underground he continued to direct the party’s work. In his theses “The Political Situation” and his pamphlet On Slogans, Lenin defined the party’s tactics under the changed circumstances. Taking Lenin’s instructions as a point of departure, the Sixth Congress of the RSDLP(B) adopted a resolution calling on the working class to take power through armed insurrection in alliance with the poorest peasants. While underground Lenin wrote the book State and Revolution, the pamphlets The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It and Can the Bolsheviks Retain State Power?, and many other works. On Sept. 12–14 (25–27), 1917, Lenin wrote the letter “The Bolsheviks Must Assume Power” to the party’s Central Committee and Petrograd and Moscow committees and a second letter, “Marxism and Insurrection,” to the Central Committee; on Sept. 29 (Oct. 12) he wrote the article “The Crisis Has Matured.” In these writings Lenin, after thoroughly analyzing the disposition and correlation of class forces in the country and internationally, concluded that the time had come to make a victorious socialist revolution and developed a plan for armed insurrection.
In early October he illegally returned to Petrograd from Vyborg. In his article “Advice of an Onlooker,” written October 8 (21), he described the tactics for carrying out the armed uprising. On October 10 (23) at a meeting of the party Central Committee he gave a report on the current situation; on his motion the Central Committee adopted a resolution calling for an armed uprising. On October 16 (29), at an enlarged meeting of the Central Committee, Lenin gave a report in which he defended the course toward insurrection and sharply criticized the opponents of insurrection, L. B. Kamenev and G. E. Zinoviev. Lenin regarded as especially dangerous for the revolution postponement of the insurrection until the convocation of the Second Congress of Soviets, which L. D. Trotsky particularly insisted on. The Central Committee meeting approved Lenin’s resolution for the armed uprising. During the preparations for the insurrection Lenin guided the Military Revolutionary Center established by the party Central Committee and the Military Revolutionary Committee organized within the Petrograd Soviet on the suggestion of the Central Committee. On October 24 (November 6), in a letter to the Central Committee, Lenin urged an immediate offensive, the arrest of the Provisional Government, and the assumption of power, emphasizing that “to delay action is fatal” (ibid., vol. 34, p. 436).
On the evening of October 24 (November 6), Lenin secretly came to the Smolny Institute to take direct leadership of the armed insurrection. At the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets, which opened on October 25 (November 7) and which proclaimed the transfer of all power to the soviets in the capital and locally throughout the country, Lenin presented reports on peace and on the land question. The congress adopted his decrees on peace and land and formed a workers’ and peasants’ government—the Council of People’s Commissars—headed by Lenin. The victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution, won under the leadership of the Communist Party, ushered in a new era in human history, the era of transition from capitalism to socialism.
Lenin led the struggle of the Communist Party and of the popular masses of Russia to fulfill the tasks of the dictatorship of the proletariat and to build socialism. Under his leadership the party and government created a new, Soviet state apparatus. Landlords’ estates were confiscated, all land, banks, transport, and large industry were nationalized, and the monopoly of foreign trade was introduced. The Red Army was created. National oppression was eliminated. The party enlisted the popular masses in the great work of building the Soviet state and carrying out fundamental social and economic transformations. In his article “How to Organize Competition?” (December 1917), Lenin proposed socialist competition among the masses as an effective method of building socialism. In early January 1918, he drafted the “Declaration of Rights of the Working and Exploited People,” which became the basis of the first Soviet constitution, adopted in 1918. Lenin’s devotion to principles, his perseverance, and his resistance to the “left communists” and Trotskyists resulted in the signing of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty with Germany in 1918, giving Soviet power the peaceful breathing space it so badly needed.
From Mar. 11, 1918, Lenin resided and worked in Moscow, after the party Central Committee and Soviet government had been transferred there from Petrograd.
In The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government and “Left-Wing” Childishness and the Petty-Bourgeois Mentality, both written in 1918, Lenin outlined a plan for laying the foundations of a socialist economy. In May 1918, on Lenin’s initiative and with his participation, decrees on the food problem were drawn up and adopted. At his suggestion food detachments consisting of workers were formed and sent into the countryside to incite the village poor to fight the kulaks and wage a struggle for grain. The socialist measures enacted by Soviet power met with bitter resistance from the ousted exploiting classes, which unleashed an armed struggle against Soviet power and resorted to terrorism. On Aug. 30, 1918, Lenin was badly wounded by the Socialist Revolutionary terrorist F. E. (Fanny) Kaplan.
During the civil war and foreign military intervention (1918–20), Lenin was chairman of the Council of Workers’ and Peasants’ Defense, formed on Nov. 30, 1918, to mobilize all forces to crush the enemy. Lenin put forward the slogan “Everything for the Front!” and on his proposal the All-Russian Central Executive Committee declared the Soviet Republic an armed camp. Under his leadership the party and the Soviet government quickly put the national economy on a war footing and developed and carried out a series of extraordinary measures that became known as war communism. He wrote a number of very important party documents that constituted a militant program for mobilizing the party and people to defeat the enemy. Among these were the “Theses of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik) on the Situation on the Eastern Front” (April 1919) and the letter of the Central Committee of the RCP(B) to all party organizations entitled “All Out for the Fight Against Denikin!” (July 1919). He directly supervised the planning of the most important strategic campaigns of the Red Army in defeating the White Guard armies and foreign interventionist forces.
Lenin also continued his theoretical work. In the fall of 1918 he wrote The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, in which he exposed Kautsky’s opportunism and demonstrated the fundamental difference between bourgeois democracy and proletarian, Soviet democracy and pointed out the international significance of the strategy and tactics of the Russian Communists. “Bolshevism,” he wrote, “can serve as a model of tactics for all” (ibid., vol. 37, p. 305). He drafted the main sections of the second party program defining the tasks of socialist construction, which was adopted at the Eighth Congress of the RCP(B) in March 1919. At that time Lenin concentrated on the question of the transition period from capitalism to socialism. In “A Great Beginning” (June 1919), dealing with communist subbotniks (unpaid voluntary mass workdays), “Economics and Politics in the Era of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat” (autumn, 1919), “From the Destruction of the Old Social System to the Creation of the New” (spring, 1920), and many other works Lenin summarized the experience of the dictatorship of the proletariat, developed the Marxist doctrine on the transition period, and elucidated many important questions of communist construction under the conditions of struggle between two systems, socialism and capitalism.
After the victorious end of the civil war, Lenin led the party and all the working people of the Soviet Republic in restoring and developing the economy and advancing culture. In the report of the Central Committee at the Ninth Congress of the RCP(B), Lenin defined the tasks of economic development and emphasized the overriding importance of a single economic plan, the basis of which was to be the electrification of the country. Under his direction the state plan for the electrification of Russia over a ten- to 15-year period (GOELRO) was developed, the first long-range economic development plan in the land of the Soviets, a plan that Lenin called “the party’s second program” (ibid., vol. 42, p. 157).
In late 1920 and early 1921 a debate arose in the party over the role and tasks of the trade unions. In this debate the issues of the correct approach to the masses, of the party’s role, and of the destiny of the dictatorship of the proletariat and socialism in Russia were in fact being decided. Lenin opposed the erroneous platforms and factional activity of Trotsky, N. I. Bukharin, the “workers’ opposition,” and the democratic centralism group. He pointed out that the trade unions, while serving as a school for communism in general, must also be a school of economic management for the working people.
At the Tenth Congress of the RCP(B) in 1921, Lenin summed up the trade union debate in the party and proposed a shift from war communism to the new economic policy (NEP). The congress approved the transition to the NEP, which ensured the strengthening of the alliance between the working class and the peasantry and the creation of a production base for socialist society. The congress also adopted Lenin’s resolution on party unity. In his pamphlet The Tax in Kind (The Significance of the New Policy and Its Conditions) and his article “Fourth Anniversary of the October Revolution,” both written in 1921, he showed that the new economic policy was essentially the proletariat’s economic policy in the period of transition, and outlined the manner in which the policy would be carried out.
In his speech “The Tasks of the Youth Leagues,” delivered at the Third Congress of the Russian Young Communist League in 1920, in his outline and draft resolution “On Proletarian Culture” (1920), and in such writings as his article “On the Significance of Militant Materialism” (1922), Lenin dealt with the problems of creating a socialist culture and the party’s tasks in ideological work. He also showed great concern for the development of science.
Lenin pointed the way to the solution of the national problem. Questions of national statehood and of socialist transformations in national regions were treated in his report on the party program at the Eighth Congress of the RCP(B), in his “Preliminary Draft Theses on the National and Colonial Questions” for the Second Congress of the Comintern (1920), and in various other writings, notably his letter “On the Formation of the USSR” (1922). He developed the principles for unifying the Soviet republics into a single multinational state on the basis of voluntary agreement and equal rights. This state, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, was founded in December 1922.
Under Lenin’s leadership the Soviet government consistently struggled to preserve peace and prevent a new world war and sought to establish normal diplomatic and economic relations with other countries. The Soviet people also gave their support to the revolutionary and national-liberation movements.
In March 1922, Lenin directed the Eleventh Congress of the RCP(B), the last party congress at which he was to speak. Intense work and the effects of the wounds sustained in 1918 undermined his health. In May 1922 he became gravely ill. Returning to work in early October 1922, he gave his last public speech on Nov. 20, 1922, at the plenum of the Moscow Soviet. On Dec. 16, 1922, his condition worsened. In late December 1922 and early 1923 he dictated a number of letters on intraparty problems and government matters—”Letter to the Congress,” “Granting Legislative Functions to the State Planning Commission,” “The Question of Nationalities or ‘Autonomization’ “— and the articles “Pages From a Diary,” “On Cooperation,” “Our Revolution,” “How We Should Reorganize the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspection (Recommendation to the Twelfth Party Congress),” and “Better Fewer, But Better.”
These letters and articles are rightly called Lenin’s political testament. They represent the culminating stage in the development of his plan for building socialism in the USSR. In them he outlined the program for the socialist transformation of the country, the prospects of the world revolutionary process, and the principles of the party’s policy, strategy, and tactics. He showed the possibility of building a socialist society in the USSR and developed his proposals for industrializing the country, for the peasantry’s transition to large-scale social production through cooperatives, and for a cultural revolution. He also emphasized the need to consolidate the alliance between the working class and the peasantry, to strengthen the friendship among the peoples of the USSR, to improve the state apparatus, and to ensure the guiding role of the Communist Party and the unity of its ranks.
Lenin consistently adhered to the principle of collective leadership. He presented all the most important questions for discussion at regularly convened party congresses and conferences, plenary sessions of the Central Committee and Politburo, all-Russian congresses of soviets, and sessions of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars. Among the prominent party and Soviet government figures who worked under Lenin’s guidance were G. V. Chicherin, F. E. Dzerzhinskii, M. V. Frunze, M. I. Kalinin, L. B. Krasin, G. M. Krzhizhanovskii, V. V. Kuibyshev, A. V. Lunacharskii, G. K. Ordzhonikidze, G. I. Petrovskii, S. G. Shaumian, J. V. Stalin, P. I. Stuchka, la. M. Sverdlov, and V. V. Vorovskii.
Lenin was the leader not only of the Russian but also of the international workers’ and communist movement. In his letters to the working people of Western European, American, and Asian countries, he explained the essence and international significance of the October Socialist Revolution and the most important tasks of the world revolutionary movement. On his initiative, the Third (Communist) International was founded in 1919, and its First, Second, Third, and Fourth Congresses were held under his leadership. He drafted many of the resolutions and other documents of these congresses. In his writings, especially in his “Left-wing” Communism—An Infantile Disorder (1920) he elaborated the program, strategy, and tactical principles of the international communist movement.
In May 1923 illness obliged Lenin to move to the village of Gorki, near Moscow. In January 1924 his health suddenly began to deteriorate rapidly. On Jan. 21, 1924, at 6:50 P.M., Lenin died. On January 23 his body was brought to Moscow, where it lay in state in the Hall of Columns in the House of Trade Unions. For five days and nights the people came to pay their last respects to their leader. On January 27 the funeral was held in Red Square, and the coffin containing Lenin’s embalmed body was placed in a specially built mausoleum.
Not since Marx had the proletarian struggle for emancipation given the world a thinker and leader of the working class and all toilers of Lenin’s stature. He combined scientific genius, political wisdom, and perspicacity with great organizational ability, an iron will, courage, and daring. He had a boundless faith in the creative powers of the popular masses, was close to them, and enjoyed their total confidence, love, and support. All of Lenin’s activity embodied the organic unity between revolutionary theory and practice. As leader and man Lenin possessed a selfless devotion to communist ideals and to the cause of the party and of the working class and a supreme conviction of the righteousness and justice of that cause. He subordinated every facet of his life to the struggle for the emancipation of the toilers from social and national oppression. He both loved his homeland and was a consistent internationalist. Intransigent toward the class enemy, he had a touching concern for comrades. He was highly exacting toward himself and others and was morally pure, simple, and modest.
Lenin’s leadership of the party and the Soviet state rested on creative Marxism. He tirelessly combated attempts to turn the teaching of Marx and Engels into a lifeless dogma. “We do not regard Marx’ theory as something completed and inviolable,” he wrote; “on the contrary, we are convinced that it has only laid the foundation stone of the science which socialists must develop in all directions if they wish to keep pace with life” (ibid., vol. 4, p. 184). Lenin raised revolutionary theory to a new, higher level and enriched Marxism with scientific discoveries of worldwide historic importance. “Leninism is Marxism of the epoch of imperialism and proletarian revolutions, the epoch of the collapse of colonialism and the victory of national-liberation movements, the epoch of mankind’s transition from capitalism to socialism and of the building of communist society” (“On the 100th Anniversary of V. I. Lenin’s Birth,” Theses of the Central Committees of the CPSU, 1970, p. 5).
Lenin developed all the essential elements of Marxism—its philosophy, political economy, and scientific communism.
Summarizing from the standpoint of Marxist philosophy the achievements of science, especially physics, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Lenin further developed the doctrine of dialectical materialism. He amplified the concept of matter, defining it as an objective reality existing apart from human consciousness, and worked out the basic problems of the theory of knowledge and of the theory of the reflection of the objective world in human consciousness. A great contribution was his comprehensive elaboration of materialist dialectics, particularly the law of the unity and conflict of opposites. “Lenin was the first thinker of our age to see in the achievements of the natural science of his time the beginning of a great scientific revolution, to disclose the revolutionary significance of the fundamental discoveries of the great natural scientists, and to draw philosophical conclusions from them. . . . His concept of the inexhaustibility of matter has become a principle of scientific knowledge” (ibid., p. 14).
Lenin greatly enriched Marxist sociology. He specified, defined, and further developed the most important problems, categories, and tenets of historical materialism concerning socioeconomic formations, the laws of social development, the development of productive forces and production relations, the interrelations of base and superstructure, classes and the class struggle, the state, social revolution, nations and national-liberation movements, the correlation between objective and subjective factors in social life, social consciousness and the role of ideas in the development of society, and the role of the masses and the individual in history.
Lenin fundamentally expanded the Marxist analysis of capitalism in his treatment of such problems as the formation and development of the capitalist mode of production (particularly in relation to backward countries with strong vestiges of feudalism) and agrarian relations under capitalist conditions. He also amplified Marx’ analysis of bourgeois and bourgeois-democratic revolutions, the social structure of capitalist society, the essence and forms of the bourgeois state, and the historic mission of the proletariat and the forms of its class struggle. Of primary importance was Lenin’s conclusion that the proletariat’s power to influence the course of history was immeasurably greater than its size in proportion to the total population.
Lenin produced the theory of imperialism as the highest and last stage in the development of capitalism. Revealing the essence of imperialism to be monopoly capitalism and state-monopoly capitalism, describing the basic features of imperialism, demonstrating the extreme intensification of all its contradictions, and showing the objective acceleration in the creation of the material and sociopolitical preconditions of socialism, Lenin concluded that imperialism marked the eve of socialist revolution.
Lenin fully developed the Marxist theory of socialist revolution as applied to the new historical epoch. He thoroughly elaborated the idea of the hegemony of the proletariat in the revolution and the idea that the working class must be allied with the toiling peasantry. He defined the proletariat’s relationship to the various strata of the peasantry at different stages of the revolution; he expounded the theory of the development of the bourgeois-democratic revolution into the socialist revolution; and he elucidated the problem of the correlation between the struggle for democracy and the struggle for socialism. Revealing the workings of the law of uneven development of capitalism in the imperialist epoch, Lenin drew the conclusion—of tremendous theoretical and political importance—that initially the victory of socialism is possible and even inevitable in several capitalist countries or even a single one. Lenin’s conclusion, confirmed by the entire course of historical development, became the basis for elaborating important problems of the world revolutionary process and of building socialism in countries where the proletarian revolution was victorious. Lenin also developed the tenets of the revolutionary situation, armed insurrection, and the possibility of the peaceful development of the revolution under certain circumstances. He established the idea that the world revolution was a single process, a period in history combining the struggle of the proletariat and its allies for socialism with democratic (including the national-liberation) movements.
Lenin thoroughly elaborated the national question. Insisting that it be approached from the standpoint of the proletarian class struggle, he revealed that there were two tendencies within capitalism regarding the national question. He demonstrated that there must be full equality among nations and that oppressed, colonial, and dependent peoples must have the right of selfdetermination, at the same time defending the principle of internationalism within the working-class movement and among proletarian organizations—the idea of a joint struggle by the working people of all nationalities for the cause of social and national liberation and for the creation of a voluntary union of peoples. Lenin revealed the essence and described the moving forces of the national-liberation movements. He introduced the idea of organizing a united front of the revolutionary movement of the international proletariat and the national-liberation movements against their common enemy, imperialism. He held that under specified circumstances it was possible for backward countries to make the transition to socialism by passing the capitalist stage of development. Lenin developed the principles of national policy for the dictatorship of the proletariat, ensuring the flourishing of every nation and nationality and their cohesion.
Lenin defined the essence of the contemporary era as the transition of mankind from capitalism to socialism and described the moving forces and prospects of the world revolutionary process after the division of the world into two systems. The fundamental contradiction of the era is that between socialism and capitalism. For Lenin the leading force in the struggle against imperialism was the socialist system and the international working class. He foresaw the creation of a world system of socialist states that would decisively influence the entire course of world politics.
Lenin developed a coherent theory of the transition period from capitalism to socialism, disclosing its content and laws. Generalizing from the experience of the Paris Commune and the three Russian revolutions, he developed and rendered more concrete Marx and Engels’ doctrine of the dictatorship of the proletariat and fully revealed the historic significance of the Republic of Soviets—a new type of state, immeasurably more democratic than any bourgeois parliamentary republic. The transition from capitalism to socialism, Lenin taught, could not but produce a variety of political forms, although the essence of all these forms would be the same—the dictatorship of the proletariat. He treated all aspects of the question of the functions and tasks of the dictatorship of the proletariat, showing that its chief element was not force, but rather the rallying of the nonproletarian strata of toilers around the working class and the building of socialism. According to Lenin the basic condition for achieving the dictatorship of the proletariat was the leadership of the Communist Party.
Lenin’s works fully elucidate the theoretical and practical problems of building socialism. After the victory of the revolution the major task is the socialist transformation and planned development of the national economy and the attainment of a higher level of labor productivity than under capitalism. Of crucial importance in building socialism is the creation of the appropriate material and technical base—the industrialization of the country. Lenin also dealt extensively with the question of the socialist transformation of agriculture through the formation of state farms and the development of cooperatives, through the peasantry’s transition to large-scale social production. He proposed and defined democratic centralism as the basic principle of economic management during the building of socialist and communist society. He showed that it was necessary to maintain and use commodity-money relations and to adhere to the principle of material incentives.
One of the basic conditions for building socialism, Lenin believed, was cultural revolution: raising the level of public education; acquainting the broad masses with learning and cultural treasures; developing science, literature, and the arts; ensuring extensive transformations in the consciousness, ideology, and intellectual life of the working people; and re-educating them in the spirit of socialism. He stressed the need to use the progressive and democratic elements of the culture of the past in the interest of building socialist society and considered it necessary to enlist bourgeois specialists of the old order in the process of socialist construction. At the same time he urged the training of numerous cadres of the new people’s intelligentsia. In his articles on L. Tolstoy, his article “Party Organization and Party Literature” (1905), and his letters to M. Gorky, I. Armand, and others, Lenin upheld the principle of party-mindedness (partiinost’) in literature and art, analyzed the role of literature and art in the proletariat’s class struggle, and formulated the principle of party guidance of literature and art.
Lenin’s works elaborate the principles of socialist foreign policy as a major factor in building the new society and in developing the world revolutionary process. This is a policy of close governmental, economic, and military alliance among socialist republics, solidarity with peoples struggling for social and national liberation, peaceful coexistence between states with different social systems, international cooperation, and resolute opposition to imperialist aggression.
Lenin developed the Marxist doctrines of the two phases of communist society, of the transition from a preliminary to a higher phase, of the nature of the material and technical base for communism and the means of creating it, of the development of the state system, of the formation of communist social relations, and of the communist education of the working people.
Lenin introduced the theory of the proletarian party of the new type as the highest form of proletarian revolutionary organization, the vanguard and leader of the working class in the struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat and for the building of socialism and communism. He developed the party’s organizational foundations, the internationalist principle on which it rests, and the norms of party life. He showed the need for democratic centralism in the party, for unity and conscious, iron discipline, for the development of intraparty democracy, for active participation by all party members and collective leadership, for intransigent opposition to opportunism, and for close ties between the party and the masses.
Lenin was firmly convinced of the inevitable victory of socialism throughout the world. He believed that the indispensable conditions for this victory were the unity of the revolutionary forces of our time (the world socialist system, the international working class, and the national-liberation movements); the use of correct strategy and tactics by the Communist parties; a resolute struggle against reformism, revisionism, right and left opportunism, and nationalism; and the solidarity and unity of the international communist movement on the basis of Marxism and the principles of proletarian internationalism.
Lenin’s theoretical and political activity laid the basis for a new, Leninist stage in the development of Marxism and in the international working-class movement. The great revolutionary accomplishments of the 20th century, which have fundamentally changed the social face of the world and marked humanity’s turn toward socialism and communism, are associated with Lenin and Leninism. The revolutionary transformation of society in the Soviet Union on the basis of Lenin’s brilliant outlines and plans and the victory of socialism and the building of an advanced socialist society in the USSR are a triumph of Leninism. Constituting an integral whole, Marxism-Leninism, the great international doctrine of the proletariat, is the common property of all Communist parties, all revolutionary workers of the world, and all toilers. All the fundamental social problems of our time can be properly studied and solved on the basis of Lenin’s ideological legacy and with the guidance of that infallible compass, the eternally living and creative Marxist-Leninist doctrine.
As is stated in the Address of the International Conference of Communist and Workers’ Parties entitled “Centenary of the Birth of Vladimir Il’ich Lenin” (Moscow, 1969), “All the experience of world socialism and of the working-class and nationalliberation movements has confirmed the world significance of Marxist-Leninist teaching. The victory of the socialist revolution in a group of countries, the emergence of the world socialist system, the gains of the working-class movement in capitalist countries, the appearance of peoples of former colonial and semicolonial countries in the arena of sociopolitical development as independent agents, and the unprecedented upsurge of the struggle against imperialism—all this is proof that Leninism is historically correct and expresses the fundamental needs of the modern age” (International Conference of Communist and Workers’ Parties: Documents and Materials, Moscow, 1969, p. 332).
The CPSU ascribes great importance to the study, preservation, and publication of Lenin’s literary legacy, as well as of documents relating to his life and work. In 1923 the Central Committee of the RCP(B) established the V. I. Lenin Institute, which was entrusted with these functions. In 1932 the K. Marx and F. Engels Institute merged with the Lenin Institute to form the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute under the auspices of the Central Committee of the ACP(B); it is now known as the Institute of Marxism-Leninism under the Central Committee of the CPSU. More than 30,000 Lenin documents are preserved in the Central Party Archives of the institute. Five editions of Lenin’s Collected Works have been published in the USSR, and the Lenin Collections are being systematically prepared. Individual works and collections of his writings on various subjects have been issued in millions of copies. Much attention is given to the publication of memoirs and biographical works about Lenin and to writings on various problems of Leninism.
The Soviet people venerate the memory of Lenin. His name forms part of the designation of the All-Union Communist Youth League, the Young Pioneer organization, and many cities, including Leningrad, the city where Lenin first proclaimed Soviet power, and Ul’ianovsk, the city of his childhood and youth. In all cities the main or the most attractive streets are named after him, as are factories and kolkhozes, ships, and mountain peaks. In his honor the highest award in the USSR— the Order of Lenin—was instituted in 1930. Lenin prizes for outstanding achievements in science and technology (1925) and in literature and the arts (1956) have been instituted, and the International Lenin Peace Prize has been awarded since 1949. A unique memorial and historical monument is the V. I. Lenin Central Museum, with branches in many cities of the USSR. There are also Lenin museums in other socialist countries and in Finland and France.
In April 1970 the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the entire Soviet people, the international communist movement, and the working masses and progressive forces of every country celebrated the 100th anniversary of Lenin’s birth. The ceremonies marking this momentous date culminated in a magnificent demonstration of the vital power of Leninism. Lenin’s ideas arm and inspire communists and all working people in the struggle for the full triumph of communism.
WORKSSobr. soch., vols. 1–20. Moscow-Leningrad, 1920–26.
Sock, 2nd ed., vols. 1–30. Moscow-Leningrad, 1925–32.
Soch., 3rd ed., vols. 1–30. Moscow-Leningrad, 1925–32.
Soch., 4th ed., vols. 1–45. Moscow, 1941–67.
Poln. sobr. soch, 5th ed., vols. 1–55. Moscow, 1958–65.
Leninskie sborniki, nos. 1–37. Moscow-Leningrad, 1924–70.
REFERENCESK 100-letiiu so dnia rozhdeniia V. I. Lenina: Tezisy TsK KPSS. Moscow, 1970.
K 100-letiiu so dnia rozhdeniia V. I. Lenina: Sb. dokumentov i materialov. Moscow, 1970.
V. I. Lenin: Biografiia, 5th ed. Moscow, 1972.
V. I. Lenin: Biograficheskaia khronika, 1870–1924, vols. 1–3. Moscow, 1970–72.
Vospominaniia o V. I. Lenine, vols. 1–5. Moscow, 1968–69.
Krupskaia, N. K.O Lenine: Sb. st. i vystuplenii, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1965.
Leniniana: Bibl. proizvedenii V. I. Lenina i literatury o nem 1956–1967 gg. (in 3 vols), vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1971–72.
Lenin i teper’zhivee vsekh zhivykh: Rekomendatel’nyi ukazatel’ memuarnoi i biograficheskoi literatury o V. I. Lenine. Moscow, 1968.
Vospominaniia o V. I. Lenine: Annotirovannyi ukazatel’ knig i zhurnal’nykh statei 1954–1961. Moscow, 1963.
Lenin: Istoriko-biograficheskii atlas. Moscow, 1970.
Lenin: Sobranie fotografii i kinokadrov, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1970–72.
V. IA. ZEVIN