European Political Thought, 1815-1989

By Spencer M. Di Scala; Salvo Mastellone | Go to book overview

12
RUSSIAN COMMUNISM

The dominant tendencies on the right and left of the political spectrum outlined in the previous chapters played out during the twentieth century when mass politics came into their own. Within the socialist tradition, democrats hoped to wield the workers into an enormous electoral force capable of taking control of the parliamentary system and changing society through reforms. Emphasizing revolution rather than reforms or other aspects of the socialist tradition, revolutionary syndicalists called upon the workers to destroy the bourgeoisie's political power and destroy its authoritarian structures. The Russian Vladimir 1. Lenin fought against both these tendencies, concentrating instead on the outlines of a communist society as advocated by Karl Marx.


VLADIMIR I. LENIN (1870-1924)

A convinced Marxist whose brother was executed for plotting to assassinate Tsar Alexander III, Lenin was arrested in 1895 and exiled to Siberia. Freed in 1900, he went to Switzerland and Germany, where in 1901, with other exiles, he founded a newspaper, Iskra [The Spark], with the goal of spreading Marxist doctrine in Russia and reorganizing and giving direction to the Russian social democratic workers' party founded at Minsk in 1898. Lenin had an intense intellectual and political life during the early years of the new century.

As a revolutionary he had put up with the personal defects of his comrades as persons persecuted for their political beliefs, but as a Marxist chieftain he criticized them for wasting their time splitting hairs rather than plotting the overthrow of tsarism and capitalism. His book What Is to Be Done? ( 1902) resulted from these ruminations. In this work Lenin asserted his faith in revolutionary and party action and expressed his

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