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Two Revolutions in One

The Revolutionary Masses
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Since Russia was behind the rest of Europe, Russian Marxist revolutionaries had to plan for two revolutions. In the first bourgeois-democratic  revolution the workers would aid the bourgeoisie to overthrow tsarism and establish a democratic republic.  This would set the stage for a long period of capitalist development during which Russia would become an industrialized country. The factory workers would grow in numbers and would organize but the political power would be in the hands of the bourgeoisie. Eventually, the proletarian-socialist revolution would take place.  The workers would revolt, seize political power from the capitalist owners of industry, establish the dictatorship of the proletariat and create a proletarian state.          

The orthodox Marxists, such as Plekhanov and Martov, saw a clear distinction between the bourgeois and socialist revolutions. In their view, the bourgeois revolution would usher in a long transition period in which the power would be in the hands of the bourgeoisie, while capitalism would flourish, building up both the material and social preconditions for a socialist revolution. They believed that the second - socialist - revolution was far in the future.

Lenin, however, came to believe that in Russia the two revolutions would run into each other. In his opinion, the Russian bourgeoisie was too conservative and reliant on a strong autocratic government to push for a radical bourgeois revolution. In Russian conditions it fell to the working classes to push the bourgeoisie into making radical political demands that would speed up the development of capitalism in Russia. In 1905 the revolutionary  activity of peasants and workers so impressed Lenin that he began seriously to consider the possibility of using their energies to radicalize the revolution and to establish a working-class government even during the bourgeois revolution.

He saw his chance of putting into practice the idea of telescoping two revolutions into one soon after the overthrow of the tsarist regime in February 1917, when a bourgeois Provisional Government was set up. In contrast to moderate Marxists who did not question its legitimacy, Lenin called for the overthrow of the Provisional Government and the establishment of a working-class government. This call transformed proletarian revolution from a distant dream into an immediate reality. The decision to stage an anti-capitalist revolution gave Lenins Bolsheviks a huge advantage in the search for working-class support. The commitment to revolution also infused his Party with a sense of purpose that the moderate socialists lacked. Its members could now concentrate on the task of seizing power. 

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The Birth of Bolshevism


Tsarist Russia

Pre-Petrine Russia
Peter the Great
Catherine the Great
Alexander I
Nicholas I
Alexander II
The Revolutionary Movement
Appearance of Marxism
The Last Romanovs
The Birth of Bolshevism
The Revolution of 1905-7
Between Revolutions
The Revolutions of 1917
Interpretations of 1917
The End of an Empire
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