What did Vladimir Lenin do to deserve a spot in history?

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Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was a Russian revolutionary, first leader (prime minister) of the Soviet Union, and namesake of the Marxist movement of Leninism.

The name Lenin was one of his pseudonyms. He is said to have taken this name as a stand against Georgi Plekhanov, who used the pseudonym Volgin, after the river Volga.

Ulyanov chose the Lena River for his pseudonym because of the parallel that can be drawn between these rivers and the political opinions of the two opponents (the Lena flows opposite the Volga and also has a greater length). However, there are more theories about the origin of the pseudonym Lenin, making it uncertain where the pseudonym really comes from.

Youth and political rise

Lenin’s father, Ilya Nikolaevich Ulyanov, came from the poor lower middle class of Astrakhan. His mother had a Kalmuk background. After his parents’ early death, he was raised by his uncle Vasili, who was a prosperous merchant and tailor.

This enabled him to study physics and mathematics, after which he went to work as a secondary school teacher. Ilja made a career in education and eventually became an inspector of 450 public schools. He was awarded the Order of St. Vladimir, which made him a hereditary peer.

Ilya Nikolaevich married Maria Alexandrovna Blank in 1863. Maria was the daughter of a Jewish doctor from St. Petersburg who was married to a German merchant’s daughter.

She was trained in Russian literature and spoke German, English, and French. Mary was a Lutheran but was indifferent to the faith. The six children Mary and Ilya had been indeed baptized, but mainly received a Russian Orthodox education from Ilya. Lenin’s parents were monarchists, liberal conservatives, and supported the 1861 Emancipation Reform program introduced by Tsar Alexander II.

Lenin was an avid sportsman and loved chess, but his father insisted on a life of study. Lenin appeared to have intellectual gifts and excelled at the gymnasium. He helped his older sister with Latin and tutored a fellow Chuvash student.

Lenin, like his older brother Aleksandr Ulyanov, was influenced by socialism from an early age. His brother Aleksandr studied the writings of forbidden left-wing writers such as Dimitri Pisarev, Nikolai Dobrolyubov, Nikolai Chernyshevsky, and Karl Marx.

Ultimately, Aleksandr was linked to a planned assassination attempt on Tsar Alexander III of Russia and sentenced to death in 1887. Lenin graduated from the gymnasium shortly afterwards.

Despite the family drama, his achievements were barely affected: he finished second in his class. Lenin had become politically involved after his brother’s death and became a Marxist. He studied the works of Nikolai Chernyshevsky, Karl Marx, and Plekhanov on the estate of his maternal grandparents.

In 1887 he was admitted to the University of St. Petersburg, and in 1891, he graduated in law and was able to establish himself as a lawyer. During the famine of 1891, Lenin sued poor peasants in court for damaging his estate.

Almost all of his income for 1917 came from rent and later interest from the sale of his mother’s estate.

In addition, he also received money from the party cash. In 1893 he joined a Petersburg group of Marxist Social Democrats, later the League for the Liberation of Labor.

In 1895 he was arrested and imprisoned for a short time. From 1897 to 1900, he lived as an exile in Siberia. Shortly before that, he had married Nadezhda Krupskaya, like Lenin, a committed Marxist, so that she could accompany him in exile.

After their exile in Siberia, the couple lived in exile in London, later in Switzerland. At the 1903 Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party in London, there was a split in the RSDAP between the Mensheviks around Julius Martov on the one hand and the Bolsheviks around Lenin on the other.

The split was caused by disagreements about the conditions for party membership. Martov wanted to admit anyone who recognized the party program and was willing to follow the rules. Lenin wanted the membership to be limited to professional revolutionaries.

Martov viewed Lenin’s ideas as a rejection of the Marxist doctrine that economic developments would give the proletariat revolutionary class consciousness. According to Lenin, workers could only attain revolutionary consciousness through the work of a centralized party. Martov’s view was supported by 28 votes to 23.

Martov was supported by Trotsky, among others. When the five Jewish socialists of the Bund — whose autonomy as a member organization within the RSDAP had been rejected — and reformist trade unionists (the “economists”) angrily left the assembly, Lenin’s position was supported by a majority of 19 to 17. The supporters Lenin’s name was the Bolsheviks, after the Russian word for the majority.

Martov’s followers were called the Mensheviks, after the Russian word for the minority.

There were also disagreements over seats in the Central Committee and the party’s newspaper, as Lenin’s opponents felt that Congress had allocated them too few seats. Incidentally, even more, wings emerged within the RSDAP. The Bolshevik magazine was called the Vperyod (Forward), founded by Lenin.

After the revolution of 1905, Lenin returned to Russia. Lenin and the Bolsheviks boycotted the newly established parliament, the Duma, and called for a proletarian revolution.

When the conservatives took power after the dissolution of the Second Duma by Tsar Nicholas II of Russia in 1907, Lenin returned to Switzerland. Lenin supported the raids on post offices, stations, trains, and banks to supplement the party cash. Under the leadership of Leonid Krasin, Bolsheviks began to carry out violent robberies.

One of the most famous “expropriations” is the armed robbery of the bank in Tiflis, Georgia, co-organized by Joseph Stalin. In 1906 Lenin advocated the unification of the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks, but at the RSDAP Fourth Party Congress in Stockholm, this was prevented by condemning the Bolshevik bank robberies by the Mensheviks.

In Switzerland, he tried to exchange the banknotes stolen in Tiflis that had identifiable serial numbers. In 1912 it came to a complete break with the Mensheviks and Lenin founded the newspaper Pravda (The Truth).

During the First World War, Lenin attended the left-wing socialist congresses of Zimmerwald and Kienthal. Lenin advocated the creation of a Third International.

In 1916, the secret political directory of Lenin’s group contained only ten active members in Russia itself. In February 1917, the February Revolution broke out in Russia. The immediate cause for this was the poor course of the war against Germany and Austria.

Tsar Nicholas II abdicated and a Provisional Government was established. According to the prevailing Marxist view, a proletarian or socialist revolution did not follow until long after a bourgeois revolution.

Marx himself thought it most likely would happen in the country where capitalism is most developed. With his theory of imperialism (among others in “Imperialism as the last stage of capitalism”) Lenin developed the thesis that a bourgeois revolution could immediately turn into a proletarian revolution if the working class in the country concerned was better organized and higher consciousness, while the capitalist class is relatively weak.

Thus, according to Lenin, a socialist revolution was possible in the near future. With the help of Parvus Helphand and the German government, which, still at war with Russia, wanted to weaken the new regime, Lenin returned to Russia in April 1917 after traveling through Germany, Sweden, and Finland, where he was heard loudly by his followers. was greeted. Lenin settled in Petrograd.

October Revolution

Immediately upon arrival Lenin went to work and drafted the famous April theses (see Russian Revolution). In the April Theses, Lenin called for the formation of a socialist government and all power to the soviets.

The July uprising led by the Bolsheviks shortly afterward ended in failure and Lenin fled to Finland where he lived in hiding. From his hiding place, he continued to call on the Bolsheviks to revolt. Thanks to German money flows, the circulation of Pravda grew explosively to three hundred and twenty thousand copies and the membership of the Bolsheviks increased tenfold to two hundred thousand.

Lenin found support in the group around the revolutionary Trotsky, who joined the Bolsheviks with his group. In September, right-wing general Lavr Kornilov attempted to seize power in a coup. Prime Minister Aleksandr Kerensky managed to prevent this, however.

Lenin returned from Finland and ordered the creation of the Red Guards, ostensibly to support the workers and sailors of the revolutionary government, but in reality to start a revolution. Prime Minister Kerensky of the Provisional Government had his hands full and did not intervene. On October 25, 1917 (according to the Julian calendar then in force in Russia), the Red Guards of the Bolsheviks committed a coup d’état, cities were occupied and buildings were taken, this event went down in history as the October Revolution.

The Provisional Government was imprisoned, only Prime Minister Kerensky managed to escape. A revolutionary government was formed consisting of Bolsheviks.

Head of government

After the October Revolution, the new government was renamed the Council of People’s Commissars (i.e. Council of Ministers).

Trotsky had made up that name to distance himself from the “bourgeois” councils of ministers of the Western countries, and it also became clear that the new Russian government wanted a complete break with the capitalist West.

Lenin became chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars (Prime Minister). Lenin also headed the central committee of the Bolshevik Party, which was renamed the Russian Communist Party from February 1918.

In December 1917 Lenin formed his second government, a coalition government (also the last coalition government in Soviet Russia; coalition members were expelled from the government in 1918), which also included members of the Left Social Revolutionary Party.

The new government sent a delegation to make peace with the Centrals (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey). The first talks failed, but on March 3, 1918, the Brest-Litovsk peace was concluded. Russia withdrew from the First World War, but the Russian Civil War started in its own country. Former Tsarist officers, bourgeois politicians, some of the Social Democrats (Mensheviks), and the Social Revolutionaries began to fight the new communist government.

These ‘White Armies’ fought the ‘Red Armies’ for three years. In 1921 the civil war formally came to an ‘end’, although it would remain unsettled in Russia until 1924, in Turkestan even until 1926 (except for a few armed groups of the Basmatshi uprising, which continued into the 1930s).

Economic policy

Marxist socialism in economic terms means nationalization and common land ownership. Indeed, during the civil war, everything was in the hands of the state. Under Lenin, war communism was introduced by the Bolsheviks in 1918.

Under war communism, industries were nationalized and all agriculture was centralized (Prodrazvyorstka). Private businesses became illegal, the state was given a monopoly on foreign trade, and food and other basic necessities were rationed for better distribution.

This approach was disastrous for both agriculture and industry and took its toll in already war-torn Russia. The sharp decline in production in industry and agriculture, combined with 7 years of war and drought led to the Russian Famine of 1921, which left millions dead. Several strikes broke out in Russia, the turning point for war communism was the Kronstadt Uprising in March 1921.

In 1921 Lenin introduced the New Economic Policy (NEP). The NEP provided for a mixed economy: part of the economy remained nationalized, another part became private property. This is not dogmatic Marxist — Lenin knew that himself too — but it testifies to realism. The NEP brought Russia back economically to the level of 1913.

The Red Terror

Lenin was always tough on rebellious Russian peasants and workers, as well as critics and political opponents. A good example of this is the crushing of the Putilov factory uprising.

The Kronstadt uprising was also brutally suppressed. When, probably by Fanny Kaplan, an attempt was made on his life on August 30, 1918 (his health declined from that time and his later heart attacks are attributed to this incident), the Red Terror was enacted by the Bolsheviks.

Although Lenin was at the head of a dictatorship, he was not an absolute ruler. All important decisions, including Lenin’s, always had to be formally approved by the Party. Lenin did not have the power to fill the main party organs, the Central Committee and the politburo, only with yes-men; something that Stalin (only in the late 1930s) did manage to do.

The name Red Terror is derived from the French “La Grande Terreur”, a period during the French Revolution when “enemies of the revolution” were killed.

After Lenin’s party gained control of all of Russia, the war was started against the opponents of communism and those suspected of it. Innocent civilians were charged with conspiring against the party and were either killed or sent to prison camps. Landowners’ mansions were set on fire and the bourgeoisie was forced to do degrading labor.

The erstwhile elite of Tsarist Russia was at the mercy of the Bolsheviks. The former Russian Tsar Nicholas II, his wife and children were executed without trial with Lenin’s consent. During this period of unrest, an exodus of the intelligentsia started.

Many Russians moved to the United States, Western Europe and other countries.

In December 1917, Lenin wrote in the article How to Organize Competition ?: “In one place, the rich, the villains, the workers who do not want to work, will be put in jail. (…) In another place, they will be forced to clean the latrines. Elsewhere they will be given a yellow mark after their imprisonment so that everyone knows they are harmful and can keep an eye on them. One in ten idlers can be shot somewhere else. ”

Lenin published in February 1918 the decree The Socialist Fatherland Is in Danger !, which stated that enemy agents, profiteers, looters, hooligans, agitators and spies should be shot on the spot, that is, without lawsuits or gathering evidence. It was also ordered to force civilians to dig trenches and those who resisted it were to be shot.

In a telegram dated August 11, 1918 to leading communists in Penza, Lenin personally orders no fewer than 100 people to be hanged. In the telegram Lenin writes: “Hang (and make sure that the hanging takes place in full view of the people) no less than a hundred well-known kulaks, rich men, leeches. (…) Do it in such a way that hundreds of miles around the people see, tremble, know, cry: they strangle them, and they will strangle them to death, those blood-sucking kulaks. ”

Lenin is also known for his hatred of the Russians and the nation itself. Some famous quotes from Lenin. — “пусть 90% русских погибнет, лишь бы 10% остальные жили при коммунизме” — “Let 90% of Russians die that the 10% could only live in communism.” — “А на Россию мне плевать …” — “I spit on Russia.” — “Интеллигенция — это не мозг нации, а говно” — “Intelligentsia — That’s not the brain of the nation, but filth.”

Lenin hated and waged terror against the Russian Orthodox Christian faith. On December 25, 1919, the Christian holiday of Saint Nicholas (which was considered a free working day), Lenin gave the order: “Мириться с“ Николой ”глупо, надо поставить на ноги встаривинстививитстивия бстививививививияшы за “Николы” ”- Literally translated:“ We don’t have to take Nicholas into account, we have to set up the Cheka (secret police) to shoot all those who didn’t come to work. ”

Under Lenin’s rule, the Russian famine of 1921 broke out as a result of drought and the large-scale food seizures by the Bolsheviks.

Lenin and Stalin

“Stalin is too rude, and this mistake, which is quite tolerable in relations between us Communists, becomes unbearable when it concerns the Secretary General. Therefore, I suggest to the comrades that they devise a way of transferring Stalin. and to name another man in this place who stands out favorably from Comrade Stalin only on one point: he must be more tolerant, more loyal, more polite, and more attentive to his comrades, less capricious, etc. This matter may seem unimportant. But I believe. that if we are to avoid a split, and if we keep in mind what I wrote above about the mutual relations between Trotsky and Stalin, it is not a futility, or, furthermore, it is a futility which could become decisive.” — Lenin

Lenin and the Party

Lenin is seen as the founder of the communist party system in Russia. The Russian Communist Party (as the Bolshevik Party had been called since 1918) became by Lenin a tight and centrally directed policy where democratic centralism was introduced. T

his means that if the Central Committee had taken a majority decision, the minority that previously opposed that decision had to abide by that majority.

That minority had to wholeheartedly help implement that decision. This strengthened the position of Lenin, who always managed to gain a majority in the Central Committee.

The introduction of a ban on faction formation in the Party gave the party leadership the desired power to expel rebel members at will. This contributed in no small part to the formation of the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin as well as of other communist leaders.

Lenin, however, had less of a need to concentrate state and party functions in the same persons, something that would often happen after his death in the USSR and in other communist countries.

Lenin gave up his chairmanship of the Central Committee (he gave that to Stalin, who unnoticed further expanded his power) and only retained the chairmanship of the cabinet.

According to Marxist doctrine — which Lenin followed closely on this point — the state would eventually die. Lenin believed in this fervently until his death: the world revolution seemed closer than ever.

In his view, people would live peacefully together as brothers and sisters (comrades) in the proletarian world, in which a government was no longer necessary. Until then (until the stage of real communism was reached), however, the state was necessary and it had to be powerful.

Lenin was succeeded as party leader by Stalin after his death. Later it turned out that Lenin had spoken negatively about Stalin and other party members. Krupskaya, Lenin’s wife, was also not that pleased with Stalin.

Final years

On May 25, 1922, Lenin suffered a stroke, almost completely paralyzing the right side of his body.

In a later stroke, Lenin was robbed of his ability to speak. Finally, he died on January 21, 1924, in Gorky, a village 35 km south of Moscow.

Although his widow Krupskaya disagreed, his embalmed body was on permanent display in a mausoleum in Moscow’s Red Square, where he still lies. His corpse is specially treated every two weeks and regularly needs good repair.

bryan@dijkhuizenmedia.com

bryan@dijkhuizenmedia.com

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