The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Lenin, Vladimir Ilyich [Ulyanov] (1870–1924)

  • Meghnad Desai
Reference work entry


Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, who wrote and gained fame under the pseudonym Lenin, was born in April 1870, the. second son of a Russian provincial official in Simbirsk (now Ulyanovsk). After the arrest and execution of his elder brother Alexander, in 1887 for alleged terrorist activity, Lenin became increasingly active in political study groups at Kazan, Samara and St Petersburg. He came to identify himself with the Marxist rather than the populist (Narodniki) stream in these study groups. He played an active part in the early theoretical debates between these two streams on the future course of Russia’s economic and political development. At the time of the founding of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) in 1898, he was already known as its best young theorist. A split in the RSDLP took place in 1902 and Lenin became identified as the leader of the majority (Bolshevik) faction. He spent much of the early years of the 20th century in exile in London, Paris and Zurich. He returned to Russia in April 1917 after the February Revolution had initiated the post-tsarist phase of Russian politics. Lenin, unlike his fellow party members, correctly foresaw the instability of the political situation in which an unelected liberal democratic cabinet uneasily shared power with the federation of popularly elected factory committees (Soviets). He launched the Bolsheviks on a strategy of revolutionary rejection of the government and a platform of peace in the World War at any price. His analysis proved correct when in November 1917 the Bolsheviks won a majority in the All Russian Congress of Soviets and took power. Lenin led the communist government from that day until illness forced his withdrawal from active politics in March 1923. He died in January 1924.


Capitalism Falling rate of profit Hobson, J. A. Imperialism Lenin. V. I. Marx’s analysis of capitalist production New Economic Policy (USSR) Planning Socialism State capitalism 

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  1. Desai, M. 1986. Lenin as an economist. London: Lawrence &Wishart.Google Scholar
  2. Warren, B. 1980. Imperialism: Pioneer of capitalism. London: New Left Books.Google Scholar

Bibliographic Addendum

  1. Studies of aspects of Lenin’s life and thought continue to be produced because of his importance in world history. Within this massive literature, valuable studies of his ideas include N. Harding, Lenin’s political thought, 2 vols, New York: St. Martins Press, 1977 and 1981; and N. Harding, Leninism. Durham: Duke University Press, 1996. An extensive general biography is R. Service, R. Lenin: A political life, 3 vols, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985, 1991, and 1995. This massive study is synthesized and updated in R. Service, Lenin, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000.Google Scholar

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Meghnad Desai
    • 1
  1. 1.