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Political Thinking POL 161 Erik Rankin D&B 231-243.

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1 Political Thinking POL 161 Erik Rankin D&B 231-243

2 Lenin- Revisionism, Imperialism and Revolution  Lenin acknowledged that Russia seemed unripe for revolution in several respects  For one its workers were mainly agricultural rather than industrial; they like Russia’s economy, were backward and they tended to be suspicious, superstitious and deeply religious  And so, Lenin argued, what was needed was a tutelary “vanguard party” to educate and enlighten workers as to their real or true class interests

3 Lenin- Revisionism, Imperialism and Revolution  Because Russia was politically backward– meaning ruled by an autocratic czar and run largely by censors and police spies—this vanguard party had to be small and tightly knit in its organization and secretive and conspiratorial in its operations  It was democratic in the sense that it operated according to the doctrine of “democratic centralism”  Meaning its members were free to discuss and disagree over political and tactical questions

4 Lenin- Revisionism, Imperialism and Revolution  But once a decision had been made and agreed to, no one was free to dispute or disregard it  This party was to be made up of mainly bourgeois intellectuals because only they had the theoretical knowledge and acumen required to educate the workers  Without such a party the workers were bound to make mistaken decisions and to act wrongly

5 Lenin- Revisionism, Imperialism and Revolution  This, Lenin argued in Imperialism (1916), was precisely what had happened with the outbreak of WWI.  Workers in England and Germany volunteered eagerly to fight each other, rather than joining together to fight the ruling bourgeoisie  They did so, Lenin explained, because the workers in the advanced capitalist countries had come to have a small share in the “superprofits” generated by their respective countries imperialist ventures in Africa, Asia, and Latin America

6 Lenin- Revisionism, Imperialism and Revolution  These huge profits from abroad allowed capitalists at home to pay higher wages, thereby raising the living standard of workers  It was this—and not the “evolution” inspired by Bernstein– that explained why the workers conditions were not getting worse in the industrialized and affluent Western capitalist countries  Lenin held, that this explained the workers willingness to fight and kill their fellow workers from other “enemy” countries  WWI was, in reality a war among capitalist countries for a larger share of the superprofits to be made in the non-Western world

7 Lenin- Revisionism, Imperialism and Revolution  To meet its treaty obligations, Russia entered the war against Germany  The war did not go well for Russia  Defeat followed defeat, the desertion rate was high, and back home the peasants were suffering from war- induced shortages of food and fuel  In March 1917 riots broke out in Petrograd and other Russian cities  When Czar Nicholas ordered his troops to stop the revolts, they refused

8 Lenin- Revisionism, Imperialism and Revolution  Shortly thereafter Czar Nicholas stepped down, to be replaced by a coalition government  Afraid he might miss the revolution, Lenin (with the help of the German government) left his exile in Switzerland and traveled to the Russian border  Once in Russia he rallied Bolshevik forces to topple the provisional government headed by non-Bolshevik socialist Alexander Kerensky in October 1917

9 Lenin- Revisionism, Imperialism and Revolution  Lenin was named premier  He proceeded to take Russia out of the War  Pursuing a policy of “war communism”, Lenin in the name of the people seized mines, mills, farms, and factories  The Bolshevik government gave land and bread to the peasants  Wealthy land owners and other who had much to lose started a “White” counterrevolution against the “Reds”  The reds emerged scarred but victorious

10 Lenin- Revisionism, Imperialism and Revolution  The brief civil war had taken a heavy toll, and some resistive peasants and soldiers turned their anger against the government  To cool their anger and defuse the growing discontent, Lenin in 1921 instituted the New Economic Policy (NEP)  Under NEP, peasants were allowed to farm their own land and sell their produce for a profit  At this time also, the secret police or Cheka was formed to root out dissidents and potential counterrevolutions

11 Lenin- Revisionism, Imperialism and Revolution  In 1924, Lenin died  Within 5 years, his place had been taken by a man he distrusted deeply, Joseph Stalin  In 1929, Stalin began consolidating his hold over the party  In the mid-1930’s, he began laying the groundwork for the purge trials of the late 1930’s, which resulted in the imprisonment and death of other leading Bolsheviks and untold millions of ordinary Soviet citizens

12 Journal Entry 3/29/06  How does Lenin’s version of communism differ from Marx’s?  What parts of Leninism are seen in US politics today?  Discuss your feelings on the “vanguard” party, do you see any current connections?

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