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The Revolutionary Masses

It is possible to list a range of Marxist principles by which Lenin was guided in his activities first as the leader of the Russian proletarian revolution and later as the head of the victorious workers’ government. These ideas formed part and parcel of Leninism, they were thoroughly assimilated by it and turned into immutable dogmas that underpinned the construction of socialism in the former USSR. Only the most central of them will be summarized here: 

  • mankind in its development passes through five formations with communism being the highest and final of them;

  • mankind advances to communism, the essence of which will be ‘from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs’;

  • private ownership of the means of production is connected with exploitation, with the abolition of private property exploitation will disappear;

  • class struggle is the essence of world development: ‘the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle’ (Marx);

  • class struggle is waged by two main classes: the exploited working class and the exploiting class of the bourgeoisie;
  • due to its social position the working class is naturally attracted to socialism;
  • the state is an instrument created to protect the exploiters from the exploited;
  • democracy under capitalism is merely one of the forms of the exploiting bourgeois state;
  • the road to socialism lies through a violent revolution, the aim of which is the destruction of the bourgeois state and private ownership and the creation of a workers' state - the state of the dictatorship of the proletariat;
  • the state of the dictatorship of the proletariat is a necessary stage in the transition to a classless society, a society without the state;
  • the essence of socialism and of the transition to communism is a gradual abolition of money-commodity relations (in other words, of the market);
  • the essence of socialist economy is high centralization and planning of all aspects of economy;
  • dictatorship of the proletariat is unthinkable without the Communist Party's dominant position within the state.

Marxist tenets with Lenin’s amendments would become gospel in the Soviet Union where the entire ideology was frequently referred to as ‘Marxism-Leninism’. The phrase was coined by Stalin to describe the conflation of basic Marxist theory with the ideas of Lenin. From 1917 and till the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 Marxism-Leninism provided  the foundations of Soviet ideology and organization.

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The Birth of Bolshevism


Tsarist Russia

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