Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, known famously as Lenin, died on the 21st of January in 1924 after having suffered many strokes. The sweeping state funeral followed in Moscow where his embalmed corpse was laid to rest in a mausoleum built outside the Kremlin’s walls. The cult that surrounded him was phenomenal and his teachings and theories are still widely taught and discerned today. His political tactics and revolutionary ideas gave rise to his somewhat meteoric fame. In 1917 after emerging as premier of the Soviet Government his fame and fortune grew overnight. It was not long before people were hypnotized by his speeches and peasants as well as workers would bow in his presence. Lenin can be seen as the backbone and driver in the events now referred to as the October revolution, where the Bolshevik’s (Lenin’s party) took over the Russian government in St Petersburg and were not only successful in seizing power but able to hang onto the position during a long civil war and thereafter. The revolution is a crucial event in our modern times. It transformed Russia and its effects are still felt around the globe today. Lenin was the main precursor who helped achieve and maintain this political order. Some may argue that Trotsky also held a main role but he was not a member of the party at the time were Lenin wrote and constructed his theses and therefore during the pre-condition phase was not as vital in Lenin’s initial success. Although throughout the civil war and the critical phase in general, Lenin relied upon Trotsky’s brilliant mind and military organizational skills to achieve greatness, it was Lenin’s drive and the conviction along with his unfailing commitment which struck those around him and drew them into the orbit that was Lenin.
Lenin’s emergence as a revolutionary leader was during the pre-condition phase of the revolution, in 1903. Here as the second congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party, (RSDLP), he already showed signs of being a powerful, convincing leader. Lenin’s revolutionary ideas, tactics and policies allowed him to split the party on the issue of membership. His vision was that the party should be exclusive, comprised only of a small amount of professional revolutionaries. Lenin’s faction became known as the Bolsheviks and those who opposed, the Mensheviks, believed the part should be a mass organisation, which all workers could join.
“There is evidence that the Social democrats who placed themselves in Lenin’s camp did so not because they preferred his way of the party statute but because they wanted to declare themselves for Lenin’s nerve.”
Lenin’s Bolshevik party attracted the support from professional revolutionaries from the provinces. They appeared more comfortable with Lenin’s unpretentious bearings and ordinary appearance than that of the Mensheviks and the Marxist intelligentsia in St Petersburg and Moscow who were drawn to them.
“Lenin looked like a peasant from Volga.”
“Lenin was one of them. He was a Russian from the Volga region, the heart of Russia…his speeches were powerful but without a hint of polish or elegance. He was confident but never haughty, refined or pretentious.”
These quotes further the notion that Lenin’s personality, conviction and status in society were main reasons why so many were drawn to him. This success in gaining support meant that even early on his policies were able to take shape meaning that one day he would be a powerful figure in the revolution. Lenin was seen as the undisputed leader of his party. Many defined Bolshevism as a personal pledge to Lenin where Menshivism to a lesser extent by those who opposed him. This once again supports the theory that Lenin was the driver of the revolution and without him the revolution may have occurred but not gained the support or power needed. A man named Valentinov on arrival in Genova in 1904 was “shocked by the atmosphere of worship of Lenin which people calling themselves Bolshevik’s had created.” Read more about History term paper.
Menshevik and Bolshevik differences were found to face the real dilemma of politics during the 1905 revolution and duma period. The 2 factions demarcated themselves in terms of their ideologies, strategies and tactics. The Bolsheviks formed from a narrow range of peasants and workers. They were attracted to Lenin’s discipline, his firm leadership of the party, his simple slogans and undoubtedly his belief in immediate action to bring down the Tsarist regime rather than waiting.
“ This above all was what Lenin offered them, the idea that something could be done.”
After 1905 Lenin remained leader of the Bolshevik movement but it was scattered all over Europe by factional strife. This marked a decade of emigration. During this time Lenin’s confidence in his policies and tactics grew and developed. “He made it clear that he would continue to split, even if this meant the most drastic reduction in number of his supporters.”
This quote again conveys that Lenin was a man of his word. He didn’t sway from his ideas and stood firmly on his beliefs and tactical ideas. Such a leader was critical to the pre-condition phase, where parties were forming, discontent was mounting in Russia, and someone as powerful and convincing as Lenin had the opportunity to drive a revolution.
For many years though Lenin would have to wait for his opportunity. During the years leading up to 1917, Lenin had been a virtual stranger to Russia. Apart from a 6-month stay in 1905-06 he spent most of his years in exile abroad. During the war and the years leading up to the February revolution Lenin found himself in neutral Switzerland. Here he adopted a position that disagreed with that of most of his socialist comrades. While most socialists either supported or disputed the war, Lenin viewed the war as a tool for bringing the Tsarist regime to its knees. He believed the war was a crucial stage in the development of capitalism and signaled the beginning of an international economic crisis leading to a worldwide socialist revolution.
The duty of the social democrats then, was to speed up the revolutionary mood that lay unnoticed in most people. “To help the masses become conscious of these moods, deepen them and give them shape.” A slogan often chanted by Lenin. “Convert the imperialist war into a civil war.”
The news that Russia was in a state of revolution in 1917 caught Lenin by surprise.
“ It’s staggering.” “It’s so totally unexpected.” Lenin was eager to return to Russia and did so with the help of German authorities. They saw the advantage of letting Bolshevik’s and other socialists go back to Russia and make trouble for the newly in place provisional government. On the 27 March they left on a German train, funded by the German government for Russia.
“Well there it is” Lenin wrote. “This first stage of the revolution born of war will neither be the last, nor confined to Russia.”
On his arrival at St Petersburg station soviet historians describe the night… “He achieved to save the revolution from the specter of a Tsarist restoration. This quote alone can convey that without Lenin arriving and pushing his ideas of socialism and revolution the events, which led to the downfall of the government, may never have taken place. It is known that other Bolshevik leaders were frightened and in disagreement with the ideas Lenin proclaimed to his crowd at the St Petersburg station that night. The April theses as it was known demanded that there should be no cooperation with the provisional government, the war should be ended immediately, the land should be given to the peasants and the Soviets should take power.
This was an important tactical move by Lenin. He placed himself as the opposition and was able to reap the political benefits of the failures the provisional government was about to face. Lenin’s ideas were formulated around the simple slogans of “Bread, Peace, Land” and “All power to the soviets.” These catch cries were adhered to by many because of the simplistic nature and with the vindication that Lenin chanted them. To the peasants and workers, Lenin’s solutions were simple explanations to the complex problems and uncertainties surrounding them in these times. It was at this time that circumstances for the Provisional government worsened. Pri-minister Alexander Kerensky launched a major attack on the Germans, which proved to be a fatal error and a massive defeat. Demonstrations against the new government sparked and those rioting turned to the Bolshevik’s for support. It was at this time known as the “July days” that evidence proving that the Germans funded Lenin surfaced. Lenin and many other leading Bolsheviks fled to Finland while others were arrested. Lenin however did not need to wait long for another opportunity to sieze and take control of Russia. An attempted mutiny by the well known commander in chief of the army, Alvr Kornilov, prompted Kerensky who know needed the Bolshevik’s support to release their leaders from jail. Lenin however remained subject to arrest. He stayed underground and wrote “State and Revolution” an anarchist pamphlet that reflected precisely the Russian revolutionary process of the previous months. During this time Russia was becoming progressively harder to govern with spontaneously formed committees taking charge in the army, the villages and the factories. Lenin urged his readers to destroy the state. In the cities however panic was rising. People were worried about the arrival of Kornilov’s troops and what they would do. Kerensky armed the Bolsheviks and they were to fire upon troops as seen necessary. However Kornilivs troops never arrived. This resulted in the Bolsheviks being seen as the “saviors” of St Petersburg and their support reached an all high time high. Leon Trotsky also joined that party. It was now that the Bolsheviks under the leadership of Lenin decided to seize power. On October the 25th after storming the Winter Palace and overthrowing the government, Kerensky showed little resistance and fled. Lenin issued a proclamation declaring the overthrow of the Provisional Government and the assumption of power by the Military Revolutionary Committee of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers. The Bolsheviks were now in charge of Russia.
“All of Lenin’s talents were uniquely suited to the crisis: his extraordinary sense of timing; his ability to gauge correctly the weakness of his opponents.”
“Had I not been present in 1917 in Petersburg, the October revolution would still have taken place-on the condition that Lenin was present and in command. If neither Lenin nor I had been present in Petersburg, there would have been no revolution; the leadership of the Bolshevik party would have prevented it from occurring-of this I have no doubt.”
This quote taken from Trotsky also proves that Lenin was a vital element in the Russian Revolution. His ideas sparked the slogans which won the support of so many workers and peasants, he told them what they wanted to hear. His revolutionary writings were the basis and structural point of the entire revolution. Without him there would have been no April Theses. A revolution may still have occurred but not as prematurely as it did under Lenin. These quotes and sources convey that Lenin was a phenomenal link in the great revolutionary chain.
It can be seen that Lenin and his part had now reached the critical stage of the revolution. It was one thing that they were able to overthrow the government but the civil war, which stretched into the years ahead, was another battle Lenin and his party needed to face before they could reach the consolidation phase. It was as early as the Summer of 1918 that the Bolsheviks (or as they were now known the communists) found themselves under attack. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk whereby Russia yieled large portions of its territory to Germany that caused the breach between the Bolsheviks and those who were against Lenin and his Bolshevik party, namely tsarits, nobles and the middle class constitutional democrats. They fought the war until late 1920 when peace treaties were signed with Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Poland and with the retreat of Wrangel in 1920 they had won the war for control of Russia. Lenin did not have a major influence in the fighting of the civil war. The expertise here lay in the hands of Trotsky, he formed the red army into a powerful fighting machine, able to regain control of Russia and get of rid of those who opposed Lenin’s Bolshevik party.