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Lenin's Role

 

Each of the different interpretations discussed above is important, for it provides a penetrating insight into a particular aspect or dimension of this cataclysmic event and thus helps our better understanding of the Revolution. It is unlikely that the controversy over the October Revolution will ever cease or be finally resolved. For some, it will remain a mystery, even a miracle.  

 

Yet many of the existing interpretations seem to agree on one point: that it was Lenin who out of all people had contributed most to make this miracle happen. Lenin created the Bolshevik party in 1903. He held it together during the years of exile. He gave it a political program that gained working-class support. Most important, in 1917 he provided decisive leadership at critical moments. He was never tired of repeating to his comrades Marx’s words about insurrection, ‘Insurrection is an art’, and this is exactly how he treated and prepared the armed seizure of power in Petrograd.

Finally, and maybe crucially, Lenin gave his followers a new theory that discarded the major Marxist tenet that the proletarian revolution could only take place after an accumulation of the material prerequisites of socialism. Lenin said that the proletariat and his Party could take the power immediately, without waiting for these ‘preconditions’, and then start the creation of the necessary economic foundations of socialism. The old theory restrained the revolutionary will; the new one completely liberated it. It was his audacity to dismiss ‘objective prerequisites’ and his appeal to his fellow-revolutionaries to exercise their active will and thus be the real makers of history, that, in the final analysis, made the October possible. 

However, the ‘revolutionary impatience’, which proved so potent in sweeping away the remains of Russia’s old regime, was soon to discover its own limits. No amount of revolutionary zeal or political tyranny was enough to build a utopian system that sought to defy basic social, economic, and moral laws of human society.

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