The Collapse of Communism in the Soviet Union

By William E. Watson | Go to book overview

1
Narrative Overview

The Soviet Union was created in October 1917 by a small but devoted band of revolutionaries whose beliefs and goals were shaped by the writings of Karl Marx. Marx ( 1818-1883) considered the Industrial Revolution to be an era of increasing social and economic injustice, and he was opposed to the accumulation of wealth by capitalist means. Believing his theories to be the solution to global injustice, he advocated revolution by the proletariat (industrial working class) against its alleged exploiters, the bourgeoisie (capitalist class). He predicted that a clash between proletariat and bourgeoisie was imminent and unavoidable, and that the new political, economic, and social order created by the "dictatorship of the proletariat" would be truly egalitarian and communist in nature.

In many European countries Marx gained followers who tended to call themselves Communists. Nineteenth-century Russia, however, was largely agrarian and did not have a sizable proletarian population. Marx believed at first that preconditions for a proletarian revolt in Russia would not develop for hundreds of years. To his surprise, however, Russian radicals were won over to the Communist cause. These radicals were disillusioned with the autocratic tsarist system in part due to the poor conditions of the Russian peasantry, who were liberated from serfdom only in 1861.


THE BOLSHEVIKS

The Bolshevik Party grew out of the first Russian Communist movement of the 1880s, the Emancipation of Labor, which was founded by George Plekhanov. Vladimir I. Ulyanov, who used the assumed name of Lenin,

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