Born: 1870. Died: 1937.
Born on May 4, 1870 this son of a Russian nobleman was to have a profound effect on the future of Russia and, indeed, the world. His father had been the son of a serf who had risen to post of inspector of schools in Simbirsk. While his mother was the daughter of land owning physician.
In school he proved himself to be very bright though he suffered alienation because of it. However, he excelled in his studies. He also enjoyed reading and writings of Goethe and Turgenev would affect him for the rest of his life.
Two major tragedies occurred which had an acute effect on the young Lenin (then Ulyanov). In 1886 his father died from a cerebral haemorrhage, the following year his brother, Alexander, was hung for plotting to assassinate Tsar Alexander III. Lenin renounced religion and the political system. Added to this he was the brother of dead revolutionary and found many doors closed to him. He finally managed to be accepted in a Kazan University where he studied law. This was to be shortlived as he was expelled for attending a peaceful protest some three months later. He was ostracised from the academic world. He studied the law on his own and passed the exam, coming first in a class of 124 in 1891.
He moved to St. Petersburg in 1893 where he practised law. While there he began developing a Marxist underground movement. He grouped members into six member cells. By this means industrial conditions were investigated, statistics compiled and pamphlets written. It was also through these groups that he met his future wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, who he married in 1898.
He travelled to Switzerland to meet like minded Social Democrats in 1895. While there he talked with Georgi Plekhanov. They argued over the means of bringing about change in Russia. Plekhanov wanted to include the liberal middle class; Lenin favoured the rise of the proletariat. This disagreement led to the eventual split of the Social Democratic party into Mensheviks and Bolsheviks.
When Lenin returned to Russia he carried with him illegal pamphlets, he wanted to start up a revolutionary paper. On the eve of its publication he and other leaders were arrested. He served fifteen months in prison. After this term he was exiled to Siberia and it was there that he and Krupskaya were married. Having finished their period of exile in 1900 they left for Switzerland where they finally managed to establish their paper, Iskra (Spark). During his years in Switzerland he rose to a position of power in the Social Democratic party. His uncompromising views were a core cause for the split in the party.
The 1905 St. Petersburg Massacre spurred Lenin to advocate violent action. The Massacre itself occurred when Cossacks fired on peaceful protesters led by Father Georgi Gapon. This event led to several uprisings in Russia. Lenin returned to Russia for two years but the promised revolution did not happen as the Tsar made enough concessions to mollify the people. Lenin went abroad again.
1917 was to finally see the revolution in Russia. In fact two revolutions occurred in this year. In March steelworkers in St. Petersburg went on strike. It grew until thousands of people lined the streets. The Tsars power collapsed and the Duma, led by Alexander Kerensky, took power. Lenin made a deal with the Germans; if they could get him safely back to Russia, he would take power and pull Russia out of the war. Kerensky was to fall over this same issue. He refused to take Russia out a war in which they were suffering severe losses and causing brutal hardship at home. Lenin came to power in October after a nearly bloodless coup.
At age forty seven Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was named president of the Society of Peoples Commissars (Communist Party). The problems of the new government were enormous. The war with Germany was ended immediately (his battle cry had been Bread not War). Though Russia lost the bread basket of the Ukraine to Germany this was soon regained when Germany was ultimately defeated in the war. Land was redistributed, some as collective farms. Factories, mines, banks and utilities were all taken over by the state. The Russian Orthodox Church was disestablished.
There was opposition and this led to a civil war in 1918 between the Mensheviks (Whites) and the Bolsheviks (Reds). Despite being supported by Britain and the U.S.A. the whites were defeated after a bitter struggle.
From 1919 to 1921 famine and typhus ravaged Russia and left over 27 million people dead. To counter these disasters Lenin put into effect the New Economic Plan. This plan embraced some capital ideas (limited private industry) in order to revitalise the flagging economy. However he was never to see the full effect of his measures
In May 1922 Lenin suffered the first of a series of strokes, less than a year later he suffered a second one. In his two remaining years he tried correct some of the excesses of the regime. He saw that it would be necessary to learn coexistence with capitalist countries and eliminate the inefficiency of his bureaucracy. He also tried to ensure that Trotsky and not Stalin succeeded him. In this endeavour he failed.
1923 saw him decline further as he had another stroke which left him paralysed and speechless. He never fully recovered and died of a cerebral haemorrhage on January 21, 1924.
- April Theses, 1917
- The Development of Capitalism in Russia
- Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, 1916
- Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder, 1921
- Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, 1927
- One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
- The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky
- The Right of Nations to Self-Determination
- The State and Revolution, 1917
- Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution
- What Is To Be Done?, 1903
- "Only those who themselves go into action now can make appeals for action." (from "What Is To Be Done? Burning Questions of Our Movement", 1902)
- "The propagandist operates chiefly by means of the printed word; the agitator operates with the living [i.e., spoken] word." (from "What Is To Be Done? Burning Questions of Our Movement", 1902)
- "Without a revolutionary theory there cannot be a revolutionary movement." (from "What Is To Be Done? Burning Questions of Our Movement", 1902)
- "One step forward, two steps back. ... It happens in the lives of individuals, and it happens in the history of nations and in the development of parties." (from "One Step Forward, Two Steps Backward", 1904)
- "A revolution is impossible without a revolutionary situation; furthermore, not every revolutionary situation leads to revolution." (from "The Collapse of the Second International", 1905)
- "Every advocacy or justification of the idea of god, even the most subtle, even the best intentioned, is a justification of reaction." (from a letter to Maxim Gorky, 1913)
- "There is no morality in politics; there is only expediency." (from a speech, 1913)
- "The economic system is the foundation on which the political superstructure is erected." (from "The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism", 1913)
- "People always have been the foolish victims of deception and self-deception in politics, and they always will be until they have learned to seek out the interests of some class or other behind all moral, religious, political and social phrases, declarations and promises." (from "The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism", 1913)
- "The government is tottering. We must deal it the death blow at any cost. To delay action is the same as death." (from a letter to the Central Executive Committee, 1917)
- "The war of 1914-1918 was imperialist (that is, an annexationist, predatory, war of plunder) on the part of both sides; it was a war for the division of the world, for the partition and repartition of colonies and spheres of influence of finance capital, etc." (from "Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism", 1917)
- "During the lifetime of great revolutionaries, the oppressing classes constantly hounded them, received their theories with the most savage malice, the most furious hatred and the most unscrupulous campaigns of lies and slander. After their death, attempts are made to convert them into harmless icons, to canonize them, ... and to hallow their names to a certain extent for the "consolation" of the oppressed classes and with the object of duping the latter, while at the same time robbing the revolutionary theory of its substance, blunting its revolutionary edge and vulgarizing it." (from "The State and Revolution", 1917)
- "Freedom in capitalist society always remains about the same as it was in the ancient Greek republics: freedom for the slave-owners." (from "The State and Revolution", 1917)
- "So long as the state exists there is no freedom. When there is freedom, there will be no state." (from "The State and Revolution", 1917)
- "Not a single question pertaining to the class struggle has ever been settled except by violence. Violence when it is committed by the toiling and exploited masses is the kind of violence of which we approve." (from a speech, 1918)
- "By "freedom" the capitalists have always meant the freedom of the rich to accumulate profits, and the freedom of the worker to die of starvation." (from "Thesis and Report on Bourgeois Democracy and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat", 1919)
- "Revolution is impossible without a nationwide crisis affecting both the exploited and the exploiters." (from ""Left-Wing" Communism-An Infantile Disorder", 1920)
- "Our morality is entirely subordinated to the interests of the proletariat's class struggle." (from "The Tasks of the Youth Leagues", 1920)
- "Speaking the truth is a petty-bourgeois prejudice. A lie, on the other hand, is often justified by the end." (from "Bulletin of the Institute for the Study of the U.S.S.R.")
- "[I doubt whether] we, the old, [will] live to see the decisive battles of the coming revolution." (from "The Bolshevik Revolution, 1917-1923" by Edward Hallett Carr)
- "Who? Whom? (Who masters whom?)." (from "Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives" by Alan Bullock)
- "History does not move in a straight line, but by zigzags." (from "How Russia Makes War: Soviet Military Doctrine" by Raymond L. Garthoff)
- "War is a part of a whole, that whole is politics." (from "How Russia Makes War: Soviet Military Doctrine" by Raymond L. Garthoff)
- "Wars are inevitable so long as society is divided into classes, so long as the exploitation of man by man exists." (from "How Russia Makes War: Soviet Military Doctrine" by Raymond L. Garthoff)
- "Give me four years to teach the children, and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted." (from "Inside Europe" by John Gunther)
- "If you strike steel, pull back; if you strike mush, keep going." (from "Kennedy" by Theodore C. Sorensen)
- "Can a nation be free if it oppresses other nations? It cannot." (from "Khrushchev's Lenin: II-The Parrot's New Word" by C. L. Sulzberger)
- "If you are not able to adapt yourself, if you are not inclined to crawl in the mud, you are not a revolutionary but a chatterbox." (from "Khrushchev's Lenin: II-The Parrot's New Word" by C. L. Sulzberger)
- "It doesn't matter a jot if three-fourths of mankind perish! The only thing that matters is that, in the end, the remaining fourth should become communist." (from "Leaders, Dreamers, and Rebels" by Rene Fulop-Miller)
- "He is no socialist who will not sacrifice his fatherland for the triumph of the social revolution." (quoted by Edward Mead Earle in "Makers of Modem Strategy")