The Rise of Communism in Russia
“Unless we accept the claim that Lenin’s coup d’état gave birth
to an entirely new state, and indeed to a new era in the history of
mankind, we must recognize in today’s Soviet Union the old empire of the

Russians -- the only empire that survived into the mid 1980’s” (Luttwak,


In their Communist Manifesto of 1848, Karl Marx and Friedrich

Engels applied the term communism to a final stage of socialism in which
all class differences would disappear and humankind would live in
harmony. Marx and Engels claimed to have discovered a scientific
approach to socialism based on the laws of history. They declared that
the course of history was determined by the clash of opposing forces
rooted in the economic system and the ownership of property. Just as
the feudal system had given way to capitalism, so in time capitalism
would give way to socialism. The class struggle of the future would be
between the bourgeoisie, who were the capitalist employers, and the
proletariat, who were the workers. The struggle would end, according to

Marx, in the socialist revolution and the attainment of full communism
(Groiler’s Encyclopedia).

Socialism, of which “Marxism-Leninism” is a takeoff, originated
in the West. Designed in France and Germany, it was brought into Russia
in the middle of the nineteenth century and promptly attracted support
among the country’s educated, public-minded elite, who at that time were
called intelligentsia (Pipes, 21). After Revolution broke out over

Europe in 1848 the modern working class appeared on the scene as a major
historical force. However, Russia remained out of the changes that

Europe was experiencing. As a socialist movement and inclination, the

Russian Social-Democratic Party continued the traditions of all the

Russian Revolutions of the past, with the goal of conquering political
freedom (Daniels 7).

As early as 1894, when he was twenty-four, Lenin had become a
revolutionary agitator and a convinced Marxist. He exhibited his new
faith and his polemical talents in a diatribe of that year against the
peasant-oriented socialism of the Populists led by N.K. Mikhiaiovsky
(Wren, 3).

While Marxism had been winning adherents among the Russian
revolutionary intelligentsia for more than a decade previously, a
claimed Marxist party was bit organized until 1898. In that year a
“congress” of nine men met at Minsk to proclaim the establishment of the

Russian Social Democratic Worker’s Party. The Manifesto issued in the
name of the congress after the police broke it up was drawn up by the
economist Peter Struve, a member of the moderate “legal Marxist” group
who soon afterward left the Marxist movement altogether. The manifesto
is indicative of the way Marxism was applied to Russian conditions, and
of the special role for the proletariat (Pipes, 11).

The first true congress of the Russian Social Democratic

Workers’ Party was the Second. It convened in Brussels in the summer of

1903, but was forced by the interference of the Belgian authorities to
move to London, where the proceedings were concluded. The Second

Congress was the occasion for bitter wrangling among the representatives
of various Russian Marxist Factions, and ended in a deep split that was
mainly caused by Lenin -- his personality, his drive for power in the
movement, and his “hard” philosophy of the disciplined party
organization. At the close of the congress Lenin commanded a temporary
majority for his faction and seized upon the label “Bolshevik” (Russian
for Majority), while his opponents who inclined to the “soft” or more
democratic position became known as the “Mensheviks” or minority
(Daniels, 19).

Though born only in 1879, Trotsky had gained a leading place
among the Russian Social-Democrats by the time of the Second party

Congress in 1903. He represented ultra-radical sentiment that could not
reconcile itself to Lenin’s stress on the party organization. Trotsky
stayed with the Menshevik faction until he joined Lenin in 1917. From
that point on, he acomidated himself in large measure to Lenin’s
philosophy of party dictatorship, but his reservations came to the
surface again in the years after his fall from power (Stoessinger, 13).

In the months after the Second Congress of the Social Democratic

Party Lenin lost his majority and began organizing a rebellious group of

Bolsheviks. This was to be in opposition of the new majority of the
congress, the Menshiviks, led by Trotsky. Twenty-two Bolsheviks,
including Lenin, met in Geneva in August of 1904 to promote the idea of
the highly disciplined party and to urge the reorganization of the whole

Social-Democratic movement on Leninist lines (Stoessinger, 33).

The differences between Lenin and the Bogdanov group of
revolutionary romantics came to its peak