In October 1917 the Bolshevik Party, under the leadership of V.I. Lenin, staged a successful revolution that was to transform the politics of the twentieth century. It is generally accepted that, without the presence of Lenin, and the pervasiveness of his ideas in key strategic sectors of Russian society, this extreme polarisation, first of Russian politics and then of world politics, would not have occurred. Until that time, Leninism as a body of ideas, as an ideology or world view, was virtually unknown outside the struggles of Russia’s socialist groupings and insignificant European factions opposed to the First World War. Without success in Russia, it would doubtless have joined the great repertoire of implausible socialist scenarios whose leading men had faded into petulant obscurity. Some six months earlier it had seemed to many (even those politically close to him) that this was to be Lenin’s fate also. His ideas were too extreme even for extreme left socialists in Russia and Europe, and his financial and organisational resources were negligible. He himself hardly disposed of the oratorical prowess or conventional charisma of a born leader. This stocky, reserved man in shabby overcoat, who had spent the war years in lonely exile in Swiss public libraries, hardly seemed cut out to lead a revolution in the world’s largest empire, still less to threaten the bases of the established world order.
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Notes and References
- 1.N. Harding, ‘Lenin and his Critics: Some Problems of Interpretation’, European Journal of Sociology, vol. xvii (1976).Google Scholar
- 2.E. Wilson, To the Finland Station (London, 1940) p. 390.Google Scholar
- 3.Consider, for example, the strident anachronism of the title of the book by A. L. Weeks — The First Bolshevik — A Political Biography of Peter Tkachev (New York. 1968).Google Scholar
- 4.This is a summary of the general position of Bertram D. Wolfe.Google Scholar
- 5.R.N. Berki, for instance, in his The Genesis of Marxism (London, 1968) p. 2, finds that Marx’s thought has an underlying unity which can be rendered intelligible by being presented as the achieved “synthesis” of major perspectives and departures located in the European tradition’.Google Scholar
- 6.N. Harding, ‘The Early Marx and the Decomposition of Marxism’, Studies in Marxism, 1, 94.Google Scholar