Extended Essays and Internal Assessments relating to the Russian Revolution

Why did Trotsky leave the Menshevik party and become a Bolshevik, and how important was his role in the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917?

 A Plan of the investigation (2 marks) 
The scope of this investigation is to discover Trotsky’s role as a Russian revolutionary up to the end of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, especially to ascertain why after being a Menshevik he became a Bolshevik, and how important his role was in securing success for the Bolsheviks. In order to carry out this investigation primary and secondary sources will be consulted, and a bibliography will be compiled, and attached. The plan is to include in B, the summary of evidence, sections on: 1. Trotsky’s life and career before the first 1917 revolution 2. Background to the first 1917 revolution 3. Trotsky’s activities, May 1917 to the outbreak of the second Bolshevik Revolution 4. Trotsky’s role in the revolution Two important sources will be evaluated in C, the findings of the investigation will be analysed in D, and the conclusion reached stated in E. 

B Summary of evidence (5 marks) 
1. Trotsky’s life and career before the first 1917 revolution The real name of Leon Trotsky (1879 to 1940) was Lev Davidovich Bronstein. He was born in Ianovoka, Ukraine of Jewish parents. He was well educated, especially in science and languages, but his main interest was political theory, especially Marxism. This led to his arrest as a revolutionary when he was nineteen. He was sent to Siberia, escaped and joined Lenin in London in 1902. Like Lenin he wrote, discussed politics and addressed meetings, but the two revolutionaries often disagreed. Trotsky accused Lenin of Jacobinism. Lenin regarded this as a compliment. Trotsky pointed out that Jacobinism did not end with the ascendancy of revolution but with bloodshed: “the Jacobins chopped off people’s heads–we want to enlighten human minds with Socialism” (Deutscher 73).

Hearing about the 1905 Revolution Trotsky returned to Russia, organised the first Soviet in St Petersburg and edited a successful revolutionary newspaper. He was again arrested, sent to Siberia and escaped, becoming an itinerant revolutionary organiser, journalist and prolific political writer in Europe and America. He was a Menshevik who believed in permanent international revolution, and he continued to debate with other leading revolutionaries, still differing with Lenin for whom the revolution rather than the people it was supposed to help was paramount. Trotsky probably did care about the effects on peasants and workers. In 1907 Stalin and Trotsky met—and clashed for the first time, in London. Trotsky criticised Stalin’s “appropriations”, whilst Stalin referred to Trotsky’s oratory as “beautiful uselessness” (Deutscher 102–103). 

Trotsky’s anti-war comments led to his banishment from France and Spain in 1915, thus when revolution broke out in Russia in February 1917, he was in America. He embarked for Russia and arrived in May 1917. 

2. Background to the first 1917 revolution The Romanov rulers of Russia were autocratic, and the country was backward. Tsar Alexander, beginning with the emancipation of the serfs in 1861, introduced various reforms, but on the whole they were not very successful and opposition to Tsarist rule increased, especially during the reign of Nicholas II (1894–1917). Some progress was made in industrialization, but this brought its own problems, and was not accompanied by political reforms. Terrorism, repression and the opposition parties increased and these and economic distress came to a head in the 1905 Revolution. Tsar Nicholas issued the October Manifesto, but the dumas that were introduced disappointed the people as they appeared to be subject to the Tsar. Although the outbreak of war in 1914 was greeted with patriotic fervour, support for war and the Tsar soon evaporated with defeat and suffering. The first revolution developed out of bread riots and strikes. The Tsar abdicated and a largely liberal, democratic, republican Provisional government was set up. It did not satisfy the left wing revolutionary elements, especially as it continued the war and did not improve working conditions or give land to the peasants. Probably whatever had been its policies, Lenin and his Bolshevik supporters would have opposed it. Key revolutionaries including Trotsky, still a Menshevik, returned to Russia.

3. Trotsky’s activities, May 1917 to the outbreak of the second Bolshevik Revolution
Trotsky at once began a frenetic existence trying to fan revolution: “Petrograd was seething, and from the moment he left his apartment early in the morning until he returned late at night, Trotsky moved from meeting to meeting, from assembly to committee, engaged in speeches, debates and discussions” (Volkoganov 68). Still a Menshevik, he joined the Mezhraiontsy, a left wing faction of the Social Democrats, who favoured, as Trotsky did, the reunification of Mensheviks and Bolsheviks (Pipes 275). But Trotsky liked Lenin’s emphasis on the power of the proletariat and probably believed that Lenin meant it.
Events were partly responsible for Trotsky becoming a Bolshevik. The government accused the Bolsheviks of being German spies. Lenin, never physically brave, fled. Trotsky stood up for the Bolsheviks, and published his support of Lenin. This goaded the Provisional government into arresting Trotsky, and at the 6th Party Congress in August, Trotsky was elected honorary chairman in his absence (Volkogonov 73–74). He was also elected a member of the new party Central Committee. He was released from prison in September and elected chairman of the Petrograd Soviet. He used this to increase both the power of the Soviet and his own power. The Soviet was responsible for the defence of Petrograd, thought to be under threat from German forces. Trotsky was thus able to develop the Military Revolutionary Committee and the Red Guards and prepare for action. He supported Lenin’s view that the time was ripe for a further revolution, although many Bolsheviks disagreed. Stalin, adopted a cautious stance which later proved embarrassing and had to be falsified (Deutscher 171–174).

Trotsky was vital in making final plans for the new insurrection. Lenin left Finland on 10 October but remained in hiding in the Vyborg district, and communicated mostly by letter. He wanted an immediate insurrection because he feared that a right wing attempted coup would lead to the collapse of the Provisional government and its replacement by a broad socialist coalition (Service 59). Lenin did not want to share power. He did send plans; Trotsky thought that they were militarily unsound and had too narrow a base (the party not the Soviet), because he realized that the workers and peasants were more likely to respond to the Soviet. Trotsky gained his point and the rising was timed to coincide with the Second Congress of Soviets. Thus Trotsky prepared for action.

4. Trotsky’s role in the Bolshevik Revolution, 24–25 October
The actual Bolshevik Revolution caused little bloodshed, and is often referred to as a coup. “The Provisional Government of Alexander Kerensky was overthrown in Petrograd on 25 October 1917. The Bolsheviks, operating through the Military Revolutionary Committee of the City Soviet, seized power in a series of decisive actions. The post and telegraph offices and the railway stations were taken and the army garrisons put under rebel control. By the end of the day the Winter Palace had fallen to the insurgents” (Service 62). According to Pipes it was not quite so simple. Lenin sent anxious messages because he feared that the insurrection was not taking place, then he emerged from hiding and went to the Bolshevik headquarters during the night of the 24th. He prepared a statement to be read out at 10am at the Congress of Soviets, saying that the Provisional government had fallen. But at this stage the Winter Palace with members of the government inside, had not fallen and no revolutionaries could be found willing to risk death and storm it. The Bolshevik forces “... had no men willing to brave fire: their alleged 45,000 Red Guards and tens of thousands of supporters were nowhere to be seen” (Pipes 494). By midnight most of the defenders of the Winter Palace had drifted away, and the mob entered and looted it.
In the early hours of 26 October the Congress of Soviets opened. The delegates set up a new government to serve until the Constituent Assembly met. Lenin offered the position of chairman to Trotsky. Trotsky refused.

C Evaluation of sources (4 marks)
Pipes, Richard. 1992. The Russian Revolution 1899–1919. London. Harper Collins.
This book, written by an American academic historian, was first published in 1990. The author says in his preface that it is the first attempt to write a comprehensive view of the Russian Revolution. It is valuable as it does do that. It is long (945 pages), very detailed, and gives a full picture of what happened. It includes material about all sections of the populace, and all the leading participants. It was very useful for discovering Trotsky’s role. It has been meticulously researched, and has endnotes for all important points and references. It narrates, describes and analyses the Bolshevik Revolution, giving a clear picture of what happened. The illustrations also help.

Volkogonov, Dmitri. 1996. Trotsky the Eternal Revolutionary. London. Harper Collins.
Volkogonov was a Russian army officer who became Director of the Institute of Military History, but was dismissed from this post in 1991, because some of his writing was considered “un-Soviet”. Following the failed coup in August 1991 he became Defence Adviser to President Yeltsin. He died in 1995. As well as this work he wrote biographies of Stalin and Lenin. Both of these are very critical of the regimes of these two leaders, and were regarded as controversial in the USSR. This biography of Trotsky was not so controversial, probably because of Stalin’s actions in removing as many traces as he could of Trotsky. The Russian people knew little about him. It also contains some interesting photographs and was very useful in giving the Russian perspective.

D Analysis (5 marks)
This investigation has tried first of all to find out Trotsky’s motives in joining the Bolsheviks after being a Menshevik for many years. Trotsky was a “professional” revolutionary. His time was spent in writing and debating. He wanted to help bring about an international Marxist revolution. He was a great orator, and persuaded thousands of workers and peasants that a Marxist revolution would improve their lives.
The detailed sources used in this investigation show that Trotsky did play an important role in the Bolshevik Revolution. Textbooks such as Lowe do not mention his role, ascribing all success to Lenin, and Figes fails to show his prominence on the 24 and 25 October. It was Lenin’s insistence that there must be an uprising against the Provisional government in October, and Trotsky gave this his full support and helped to win over doubters. His energy and enthusiasm kept Petrograd in a state of excitement and unrest, and thus weakened the Provisional government. It must be remembered that Lenin was in hiding until late on the night of the 24 October. It was Trotsky who had insisted in associating the Petrograd Soviet with the revolution and who had made the plans for taking over strategic points. Pipes and Volkogonov give due credit to Trotsky.
It must also be remembered that Stalin, as Lenin’s heir and Trotsky’s rival and enemy, systematically removed evidence of Trotsky’s role, sometimes even substituting himself and always crediting Lenin as the hero and instigator of the Bolshevik Revolution.

E Conclusion (2 marks)
Trotsky as a Marxist revolutionary, changed from the Menshevik party to the Bolshevik party in order to take part in a second revolution and oust the weak Provisional government. As an energetic, fearless campaigner, and Chairman of the Petrograd Soviet he complimented Lenin, who was in hiding for the three months leading up to the revolution. Lenin had the authority in the party, but Trotsky did much of the groundwork, and thus played a vital role in the success of the Bolshevik Revolution.

F List of sources (2 marks)
Deutscher, Isaac. 1961. Stalin. Penguin.
Lowe, Norman. 1997. Mastering Modern World History.
Pipes, Richard. The Russian Revolution 1899–1919. Service, Robert. 1997. A History of Twentieth Century
Russia. Penguin.
Volkogonov, Dmitri. Trotsky the Eternal Revolutionary.
Harper Collins.

Rosa Luxemburg and the Spartacist Uprising

Research question: Was Rosa Luxemburg in support of the Spartacist Uprising in January 1919?

Section A.

    This investigation deals with the question Was Rosa Luxemburg in support of the Spartacist Uprising in January 1919? To conclude a valid answer the role of the Spartacists in the November Revolution (the events leading up to the revolts in January 1919) will be at the focus. Thereby the aims of the Spartacus League and the overall revolution should be identified, as well as Rosa Luxemburg’s personal engagement and expectations. The sources Der Spartakusaufstand im Januar by the history academic Holger Lucas and Gesammelte Werke are being evaluated, as they are crucial in determining Luxemburg’s role and standpoint in the Spartacist Uprising. For reconstructing the events of the winter 1918/19 and compiling Luxemburg’s profile the first source is essential. Also the latter is vital in this process; it is a collection of Luxemburg’s writings and thus the most important source for understanding her ideology.

Word count: 146
Section B.

In 1916 the Spartacus League had developed out of the Spartacus Group, having first began as the Group Internationale in 1914. Rosa Luxemburg was the initiator of this left-wing opposition organisation, and, alongside Karl Liebknecht, emerged as the leadership of the KPD  until their murders on January 15, 1919.

In October 1918, towards the end of World War I, the Hohenzollern monarchy was collapsing; consequently a parliamentary government of USDP and SPD,  dominated by the latter, was set up. Friedrich Ebert, SPD, led this provisional government. The SPD rejected a revolution, nonetheless political prisoners were granted amnesty October 20, 1918. Liebknecht was released from jail October 23; he promptly returned to the Spartacist leadership. At this point, Germany was already in a revolutionary state.

November 4, a mutiny by 80,000 sailors in Kiel stimulated the so-called November Revolution. Soon workers, who went on strike for better working conditions and the removal of the monarchy, joined them. Under increasing pressure Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated on November 9. The Democratic Republic of Germany was proclaimed.

By this time the Spartacists had gained significant influence in all major cities. Almost everywhere workers’ and soldiers’ councils had been established. In order to provide these proletarian institutions with political power, the Spartacus League demanded to be given seats in the governmental council. However, bound by an agreement with the OHL, President Ebert had to resist a Bolshevik-style revolution completely in return for the army’s support. Consequently, the Spartacists recalled their request and categorised the SPD as an enemy of the revolution.

Luxemburg, released from jail November 8, immediately joined the revolution in Berlin, working for the Spartacist newspaper Die Rote Fahne. She outlined the League’s manifesto demanding the “dictatorship of the proletariat” replacing the “bourgeois” government with democratically elected workers’ and soldiers’ councils and, adding to this, large reforms to remove the conservative military, judiciary and police, without the recourse to violence. The SPD responded with a counter-revolution whilst Luxemburg continuously spoke out, repeatedly demanding the proletarian masses carry on the revolution to peacefully unite and use the power of the mass strike against the government. She denounced both the idea of an all-powerful central committee as well as the existence of a national assembly. Instead all power must be provided to the councils.

On December 16, state police killed Spartacists demonstrators upon which Luxemburg suggested setting up a “workers-militia” . That same month the constituent assembly was officially handed over all power within Germany, with workers’ and soldiers’ councils serving only as advisory bodies. As a consequence the USDP left the coalition government and united with the Spartacus League; on December 29 they set up a Revolutionary Committee aiming to boycott the proposed national elections on January 19 and overthrow the government. Liebknecht was part of its leadership and only one of two Spartacists. Moreover, the Spartacists came together simultaneously to form the KPD, December 30. Unlike the majority of her Party, Luxemburg emphasised the need to join the elections in order to pursue proletarian rule.

When the provisional government removed police-president Emil Eichhorn - USPD member and KPD sympathiser - on January 4, the left wing called for protests. On January 5-12, 1919, the Spartacus League launched a socialist revolutionary attempt to overthrow the provisional government. 500,000 workers in Berlin followed the Revolutionary Committee, yet the Kiel sailors stayed uncommitted. The main communication centres, railway stations, the police department and other buildings were beleaguered. The revolutionaries were equipped with weapons, such as machineguns; up to about one-thousand Freikorps and other governmental forces intervened on December 11/12, raids and violence broke out. In bloody battles, around 150 revolutionaries and 13 militaries were killed, also civilians. Luxemburg and her KPD comrade Leo Jogiches had already officially retreated from the revolts January 8.

Words: 685 Section C.

    Gesammelte Werke by Rosa Luxemburg is a collection of her works in four volumes published by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. It includes articles, transcripts of speeches, pamphlets or the like in German, the language Luxemburg wrote in. She used these media to present her political ideas, in particular the concept of social freedom and how it may be achieved. Thus, by reading these primary sources a historian receives direct access to Luxemburg’s thoughts and political maxims without any bias from translation. This enables us to evaluate what kind of socialist Rosa Luxemburg was and thus how she must have felt about the January revolts. However, one must consider her articles were published in Die Rote Fahne, the Spartacist’s newspaper, where she was only one of six publishers; disagreement was on the daily routine, thus her articles may not fully represent her personal opinion . Moreover, the international Bolshevik organisation exerted noteworthy influence on the newspaper and the League (later KPD) as a whole.  Consequently, when referring to Gesammelte Werke, one must account for external influence and possible restrictions imposed on Luxemburg’s writings and speeches by other Spartacists and the Comintern.

    The analytical essay Der Spartakusaufstand im Januar und der staatlich gelenkte Einsatz von Freiwilligenverbänden by the history academic Holger Lucas is equally important. Its purpose is to investigate how the government intervened in the Spartacist Uprisings in 1919 by reconstructing a timeline of events and analysing Libknecht’s and Luxemburg’s role. Lucas, as a German academic producing a research study in 2004, enjoys the privilege that all public as well as most private or institutional archives are open to him. This enables him to access large numbers of official statistics and primary sources. However, collections of, for example, Eastern German documents are still not completed. And, because Lucas is writing from hindsight, he is prone to reproduce a false image of the early years of the Weimar Republic. Though, he can discuss the situation openly and make judgements based on a wide range of information. Since the essay focuses on giving facts and numbers rather than convincing the reader of a specific argument, it is a very valuable secondary source to help understand the individual events that constituted the Spartacist Uprisings. At the same time it provides information about Luxemburg and Liebknecht in one separate chapter. The historian studying the source can get a well-rounded idea of the revolts themselves and Luxemburg’s involvement.
Word count: 405 Section D.

    „By Karl Liebknecht we have sworn it, with Rosa Luxembrug we shake hands,“ lyrics every primary-school pupil in the DDR had to memorise; a testament it gave to the importance of Luxemburg and Liebknecht in the DDR. Annually, the SED celebrated them as national heroes with a march to their memorial at Friedrichsfeld, Berlin as national martyrs for standing up against the right-wing politics in the Spartacist Uprising. Socialists continue to honour them, now as front-fighters against fascism. The received wisdom is that both were in favour of the uprising. However, analysing of the material suggests this to be a simplification.

    Lucas clearly identifies Liebknecht as the prime mover of the Spartacist uprising: “In particular the communist leader Karl Liebknecht rooted for revolutionary action”. Focus online supports his argument: “Liebknecht proclaimed the armed struggle against the government,” focussing on Liebknecht’s antagonism towards the SPD government which he dismissed as a “democracy that socialism has never demanded.” The majority of the KPD welcomed his call for an armed coup to anticipate the planned elections on January 19; it became KPD prority.

Seemingly, Luxemburg was in clear opposition to Liebknecht and the new KPD policy. Lucas writes: They “were at odds about the new course. While he was forcing the uprising, she was objected to it.” Instead of rearing up against the national elections on January 19, Luxemburg had advocated the KPD’s participation at its founding party congress. Waldman supports this interpretation, arguing Luxemburg solely engaged with the Spartacist Uprisings because she believed in the power of spontaneous mass strikes.

Altogether, Luxemburg pleaded for more moderate action; a pacifist in her principles. This is still disputed by those wishing to stress her Marxist credentials:

They were revolutionaries and Marxists, and it was their convictions, their belief that a better, socialist world could be created, that drove them to follow the path they did.

Such claims transform both individuals into a monolith, claiming Luxemburg clearly favoured the uprising and, moreover, indifferently tolerated the use of violence as it happened during the January revolts. This idea is contradicted by what is conveyed by her writings. In the Spartacist Program she wrote, “a proletarian revolution does not require violence to succeed in its aims… as it is not fighting against individuals but institutions.” Furthermore, in her manuscript The Russian Revolution, composed during the German November Revolution, she rejected “the use of terror” completely, referring negatively to Lenin’s use of the Red Terror. However, one must wonder why she advocated a workers-militia. Fritz Schlegel argues that it was a response after the murder of sixteen Spartacists in order to protect the workers and their will, and was to be separated from the KPD completely to prevent it from deviating from democratic policies.

    Dr Helmut Trotnow further suggests that Luxemburg would not have supported the protest given the organisation of the uprising, feeling those behind a revolution must solely give an impulse to the masses. This argument is supported by her writings. As early as 1904 she criticised Lenin’s idea of an ultra-centralist party concept, believing that such a system would provide a small elite circle with dictatorship-like power, while neglecting the proletarian masses. Moreover, in the League’s manifesto she denounces the use of the masses as merely a tool for a minority in a revolution and reemphasises that a truly socialist revolution must be a revolution by the proletariat. However, the Revolutionary Committee, from which she was absent, resembles such an elite minority with Liebknecht functioning as the ‘German Lenin.’ This contradicts with her idea of a truly socialist revolution and social democracy.
Word Count: 712
Section E.

    The January Revolts have been referred to as a „revolutionary legend” although it is doubtful that Rosa Luxemburg would have agreed with this description. The German November Revolution and the Spartacist Uprising 1918/19 stand diametrically opposed to her principles which consistently called for a peaceful revolution driven by well-educated proletarian masses and conducted by socialist leaders to establish a socialist democracy. The actual revolution was dominated by an elitist minority which relied on violence as a means of revolution. Adding to this, the revolution was missing the widespread mass support, and those who supported the demonstrations were not fully educated in socialist studies from Luxemburg’s perspective. Lastly, the Revolutionary Committee did not define its goal to establish a lasting socialist democracy but simply wanted to remove the current government.
    Concluding, Rosa Luxemburg could not have been in support of the Spartacist Uprsings in January 1919. Yet, she did not want to destroy the socialist spirit that had developed, and therefore, she half-heartedly supported the revolts.
Words: 178

Section F.

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Craighead,     Sam. Socialist Martyr: Rosa Luxemburg and the Failed Spartacist Uprising in
    Germany, 1918-1919, Ohio State University, 2010, Print.

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    Revolution 1918/19. Berlin: GPO, 2006. Print.

---. Political Parties in Weimar Germany. Berlin: GPO, 2006. Print.

Grothe, Katharina, Koch, Julian Philipp and   Westermeier, Sarah. Europäische Revolution:
    Revolution 1918/19, Universität Bielefeld, 2005,  Print.

Habbel, Piet. Von den Spartakusbriefen zum Spartakusaufstand - Rosa Luxemburg und die
deutsche Novemberrevolution, Murnau, 2002, Print.

Hudis, Peter, and Anderson Kevin B. The Rosa Luxemburg Reader. New York: Monthly
Review Press, 2004. Print.

“Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg and the Spartacist Uprising.” History In An Hour, 9. Jul.
2012. Web. 25. Feb. 2013 < http://www.historyinanhour.com/2012/07/09/

Laschitza, Annelies. ed. Rosa-Luxemburg-Konferenz. 16./17. Jan. 2009, Berlin.

Layton, Geoff. From Bismarck to Hitler: Germany 1890-1933, London, 1995, Print.

Lazić, Branko M., and Drašković, Milorad M. Biographical Dictionary of the Comintern.
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    Freiwilligenverbänden, Universität Erfurt, 2003, Print.  

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---., „Was will der Spartakusbund?“, in: Die Rote Fahne, Nr. 29 v. 14. Dec. 1918. Print.
< http://zefys.staatsbibliothek-berlin.de/dfg-viewer/?set[mets]=http%3A%2F%2Fzefys.staatsbibliothek-berlin.de%2Foai%2F%3Ftx_zefysoai_pi1[identifier]%3D621f1e61-3db1-49c5-a5b0-c20b8e830fdd >

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Wette, Wolfram. Gustav Noske, Eine politische Biographie. Düsseldorf: Droste Verlag, 1990.

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    Staatssicherheitsdienstes der ehemaligen Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, n.d.
Roland Jahn. Web. 23 Feb 2013. 

Alexandra Kollontai's Influence on the Russian Revolution
For me “what I am” was always less important than “what I can”, wrote Bolshevik and political activist, Alexandra Kollontai, in her autobiography entitled” The Social Basis of the Woman Question”, published originally in 1909. Throughout her life Alexandra Kollontai was dedicated to the pursuit of equality, which can be seen in her several publications, and her work with the Bolshevik government in the 1920s. The Bolsheviks are often remembered as a radical group responsible for converting Russia’s autocracy into the first communist state, adapted from Marx’ and Engels’ writings. What has been overlooked, however, by much of history are the contributions the Bolsheviks gave to education, women’s rights and philosophy. Kollontai was one revolutionary, a visionary, who understood the overthrow of Tsardom as an opportunity for a social reform so radical it threatened the fundamental values on which Russian life had been previously built. She envisioned a Russia where women and men lived and worked as equals, in factories and kitchens alike. She worked closely with Trotsky and Lenin to develop a state where the woman was “first and foremost a member of the working class”, not a mother, wife or window.
Kollontai’s ideologies are interesting to study within the time of her life because of their relevance to the Bolshevik revolution, they are, however, also relevant today and can be readily applied within modern society. There are many countries where women have fewer rights than men, receiving lesser compensation for the same occupations, women are denied higher positions, and fired after maternity leave. What differentiates Kollontai from other feminists, however, is that Kollontai didn’t want to change a few laws, demanding equality taking away those of men; she was attempting to renew society as a whole and remove gender bias completely.

The seeds of revolution had been planted long before Lenin and Kollontai arrived, beginning with the first Romanov Tsar in 1561, an autocracy which lasted until Tsar Nicolas II in (insert year). In the earlier part of the 19th century Tsar Nicolas I was in power, perhaps the last “traditional” Tsar of Russia before the revolution. Nicolas II told the people circa 1860 “the Emperor of all the Russias is an autocratic and unlimited monarch: God himself ordains that all must bow to his supreme power”. The policy Nicolas I ran his kingdom by was “Autocracy, Orthodoxy, Nationality”, as outlined by his minister of education, S. Uvarov, in 1833. Following Nicolas I was Tsar Alexander II, who reigned between 1855 and 1881 and became widely known as the “Tsar Liberator”, he was far more lenient with his domestic policies than his father. Historian, Lionel Kochan called him “the best prepared heir the Russian throne ever had”, it was under Alexander II that the Emancipation Edict of 1860 was legislated. The Edict was intended to abolish serfdom by decreeing that each serf was to have their freedom within the next two years; the edict also was intended to incorporate serfs into Russian life by giving them more rights, such as the right to use a court of law, to own land, open businesses and get married. These civil liberties were intended to appease the rebellious peoples and gain popularity for the monarch amongst Russian peasants. Alexander II gave the reasoning “it is better to abolish serfdom from above than to wait for the time when it will begin to abolish itself from below.” Unfortunately, this degree of freedom for the peasants sparked an increase in rebellious activity, it, using Zara Steiner’s phrase,” opened the floodgates” to peasants and other lower class citizens to demand rights and liberties. Within the first four months following the Emancipation Edict there were 641 peasant uprisings, and several assassination attempts were made on the Tsar, and on 18 March 1881 the violent opposition group Narodnaya Volya, the People’s Will, assassinated Alexander II. Following Alexander II was Tsar Alexander III, known as the “conservative reactionary”, spent the majority of his reign countermanding his predecessors’ steps towards liberation for the people, and after he died, Nicolas II became his successor, and the final Tsar of Russia.  The Tsardom of Russia was an unlimited autocracy, and closely linked to the Russia Orthodox Church. The people believed the Tsar was, essentially, as close to God as was humanly possible, and thus many people did not question his authority.

 The monarch oppressed many people, and created many opposition groups, as universities grew in popularity and people became more literate and educated, they began to question the ultimate authority of the Tsar.  In 1863 Nikolai Chernyshevsky published the pamphlet “What is to be done?”  The Narodniks, meaning, loosely, “going to the people”, an opposition group was formed in 1873, in 1876 the more radical “Land and Liberty” group, lead by George Plekhanov was formed, and in 1879, the most radical group, the People’s Will or, Narodnaya Volya was formed, but later split into two factions, those opposed to violent opposition and those who were not.  Though these groups varied in the severity of their ideologies, they all had in common the type of people they attracted, lower class educated young people. Many of these groups originated within universities, or attracted university students.  Despite the existence of these groups, and their uprisings, they lacked the organisation to carry out a successful revolution.

In 1903 the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party split into two facts, he Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. *define the two groups, highlight the differences. On January 9th of 1905 Bloody Sunday took place, and triggered what would retrospectively be called the 1905 Revolution. The result of this tumulus year was the October Manifesto, which tsar Nicolas II promised would serve as the first official constitution of Russia, which granted many new civil liberties to the people. This pacified the opposition temporarily, and in 1914 Germany declared war against Russia and World War I began. In 1917, the second revolution, known as the 1917 Revolution began with many strikes, demonstrations, and mutinies. On April 3rd Lenin arrived in Russia. The July Days took place this year. The October Revolution ended on the 25th, with the Bolsheviks taking the capital, Petrograd, subsequently the Treaty of Best Litovsk was signed on March 8th 1918 effectively ending Russia’s involvement in the World War. On March 11th the capital was changed from St. Petersburg, or Petrograd, to Moscow.

The Bolsheviks had very strong ideologies; they were a highly intellectual party. Lenin adapted the communist theories of Marx and Engel’s to create Lenin-Marxism, which entailed adding the step of Socialism to humanities steps towards communism. The steps were as follows, Primitive Communism, Slave Society, Feudalism, Capitalism, Socialism, and finally Communism. Marx wrote in “German Ideology” (1845), “communism is not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolished the present state of this. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence.” One can see from this quotation that Lenin wanted a revolution of great magnitude, not a simple change in leadership and economic policy but instead a complete renovation of society, socially, economically, and culturally. In Lenin’s communist Russia the women and the concept of family were vital in society. Engel’s wrote in “Family, Private Property and the State”, “the family represents an active principle. It is never stationary, but advances from a lower to a higher form as society advances from a lower to a higher condition.” It was the goal of Lenin, and the Bolsheviks to integrate women into society fully and as equals, because, as Lenin orated on the first International Women’s Day, on 23 February 1917, “we [the Bolshevik party] derive our organizational ideas from our ideological conceptions, we want no separate organizations of Communist women. She who is a communist belongs to the party just as he who is a communist, and has the same rights and duties”. In order to allow men and women to be equal in terms of “right and duties” many government sponsored child care facilities, Laundromats, and food kitchens were opened, thus allowing Russian women to work during the day and no remain confined to the house to fulfill the obligatory cooking and cleaning duties of a housewife, as she previously had. The Bolsheviks believed strongly in equality across as levels, and this included giving women the legal rights to be equal, but also implementing the infrastructure needed to allow women the ability to exercise these rights.

A grave misconception associated with communism in Russia is that it is oppressing and violent, chiefly towards the women. Under Stalin, the communist state he led was a breed entirely different to that of Lenin. Lenin’s aim was communism in the world, the idea that the final utopian state of humanity would be communism, however Stalin was committed to the policy of “Socialism in One Country”. The Bolsheviks, under Lenin, were in the process of granting the people their civil liberties, abolishing censorship, and assimilating women into society as equal, whereas Stalin was devoted to the idea of the traditional nuclear family. Stalin wanted a society whereby women remained at the house, legally and practically, inextricably linked to her husband. Under the Bolsheviks, divorce was simplified, and became easier to obtain, also either the husband and wife were allowed to ask for a divorce; in 1920 abortion was legalized, giving women the freedom to plan their family. In November of 1918 the First All Russian Congress of Working Women was held, and it was here Lenin spoke of the rights of women, “the Soviet government is doing everything in its power to enable women to carry on independent proletarian socialist work.” The Zhenotdel, the women’s sector of the government, was established and published, among other things, the monthly Kommunitska. Zhenotdel was very much dedicated to improving the literacy rates of women in Russia; Kollontai was an active member of the organisation and eventually became its leader. It was during this time, also, that Kollontai became the first women in a high government position as the Soviet Ambassador to Finland. One method of contrasting the policies, and reign of Lenin and Stalin is to look at the roles of women under each leader. Under Stalin, abortion was made illegal, forcing women to have babies the did not want, or giving them to horrific possibility of unprofessional abortions which can lead to permanent damage, mutilation, and infection. Stalin also changed the laws regarding divorce making it far more difficult for citizens to obtain a divorce; with these two shifts in legislation alone, Stalin had already significantly changed the social structure implemented by the Bolsheviks, both of these laws limited the freedom given to the people. Stalin also criminalized prostitution and homosexuality. Kollontai, Lenin and Trotsky ha differing ideas surrounding the sexuality of people in the ideal communist state, however they were, in their varying degrees of liberalness, far more allowing for sexual expression than Stalin. After Lenin died on 3 April 1922, naming Stalin, as his successor in his will, Kollontai remained active in the government but she was belittled and given smaller, more menial positions than before.
The Russian Civil War, lasting from November of 1917 until October of 1922, made life more difficult for women, and the difficulties put forth by the war were only exacerbated by the poor economic situation. The unskilled women of Russia were the most affected group of people in terms of unemployment; in 1923, 58% of unemployed persons in St Petersburg were women. Stalin introduced the New Economic Policy (NEP) in an attempt to save to struggling economy; it consisted, in part, of forced collectivization of wheat. The economic crisis also ended with many of the government-subsidized crèches, food kitchens and Laundromats being closed. Without these public facilities, and with the high rates of female unemployment, women were forced to remain in their homes caring for their children, cooking, cleaning, thus resuming the patriarchal familiar structure which had existed during the Romanov Monarch and had been in the process of eradication under the Bolsheviks.

What distinguished Kollontai from her male counterparts in the Bolshevik party, were her ideas about the individual, the concept of ‘Free Love’. There is much dispute about Kollontai’s ideologies and her lifestyle, both in contemporary and historical writings. Kollontai married for love and delivered a son, but left them to pursue her political career, Kollontai later wrote “for me “what I am” was always of less importance than “what I can”. From a traditional patriarchal standpoint, or rather a conservative twentieth century Russian standpoint Kollontai’s life choices were beyond unorthodox; she had committed the worst crime a woman could in abandoning her husband and child. Moreover, Kollontai went on to entertain a series of high profile affairs, and boldly wrote about human sexuality, or perhaps even more daringly, female sexuality. Kollontai believed firmly in “free love”, the ability of men and women to act sexually however and with whomever they liked, a concept which went hand in hand with the “right to maternity”. If men and women were truly equal, they would be welcome to enjoy the same level of sexual freedom, and thus there must be the government subsidized infrastructure to help women care for the children they have as a result of their sexual activity. Women did not choose to be the gender biologically responsible for carrying children and thus they should not be expected to devote their lives to caring for these children. Kollontai’s firm belief in the role of the government in “free love” is evidenced in her dedication to opening children’s care facilities, and maternity clinics for women and their children.

The water glass theory, perhaps Kollontai’s most memorable contribution, a theory which has been wildly contorted through the last decades, it was a very liberal, leftist concept even for certain Bolsheviks, including Lenin, as Figes mentioned. Kollontai believed that satisfying one’s sexual needs should be as simple as pouring oneself a glass of water, using the metaphor as a means of conveying how the potential ease and effortlessness of sexuality in equal society; ‘the sexual act should not be seen as something shameful and sinful, but as something which is as natural as the other needs of a healthy organism – such as hunger or thirst’ she explained (https://russophilia.wordpress.com/category/russian-history/lenin/) Unfortunately, this theory was misunderstood by many, including Kollontai’s fellow revolutionary, Lenin; Orlando Figes quotes Lenin wrote in his book  “A People’s Tragedy”,   “To be sure thirst must be quenched. But would a normal person lie down in the gutter and drink from a puddle?”. Figes also denotes Lenin as “somewhat of a prude” this blaming Lenin’s judgments on his personal sexual beliefs. Figes’ interpretation of Lenin’s distaste for Kollontai’s personal beliefs is one of the few contemporary examples of discourse of Kollontai’s theories.

In October of 1917 Kollontai began her first government role as People’s Commissar, and in 1923 she became the first female ambassador in Russian government, her first official role in the government, boldly embodying her claim that “the working women is first and foremost a member of the working class”.  Her earlier work as the People’s Commissar was when the majority of her work implementing government support for women had taken place, she dedicated her efforts to converting orphanages to homes for all children, and establishing hospitals which catered to the pre and post natal care for women. These establishments evidence Kollontai’s attempts to reach equality in the work place between men and women. The genders could not, and still can not be equal if a women must stay home to care for the children. This is an issue faced first an foremost by Proletarian women, as, unlike their Bourgeoisie counterparts, may not have the income to support a nanny or governess, thereby forcing them to look after their own children, or forfeit having of children all together in order to work. By setting up government owned facilities, for example crèches and children’s homes, women were free to work and have children, as were the men. A government which supported women in the workforce was a revolutionary idea in twentieth century Russia, but it was also critical in the developing of a idyllic communist state and thus with the fall of the provisional government, and the beginning of the Bolshevik rule the “the proletarian women”, claimed Kollontai, “bravely starts out on the thorny path of labour”. The maternity care facilities were examples of Kollontai taking her principal of the “right to maternity into practice”.

Feminists in twentieth century Russia, according to Kollontai, did not identify as a homogenous group.  Women who believed in feminism, and the equality of men and women, all fell on a spectrum between two distinct groups, Bourgeoisie women and Proletarian women. What divided these two factions was how they wished the rights of women to be achieved.  Bourgeoisie women wished for equality to be handed to them within the current structure of society, whereas the Proletarian women were working towards gender equality as part of a much larger societal restructuring.  The bourgeoisie class could only exist in the current socio-economic structure of Russia; if the communist revolution were to be entirely successful the Bourgeoisie class would cease entirely to exist. Kollontai wrote of the Bourgeoisie “public opinion is created and supported by the Bourgeoisie  with the aim of preserving the ‘sacred institution of property’”. Kollontai writes about class distinction as the in her book published in 1909 “The Social Basis of the Woman Question”, and names the ‘institution of property’ as the root of gender equality. In a society where women are passed from the household of their fathers to those of their husbands because they can not work, and thus can not support themselves. The only occupation open to women was prostitution, though it was highly frowned upon by the autocracy and socialists alike; Trotsky spoke about the eradication of prostitution in his interview  “Family Relations Under the Soviets”, saying, “against prostitution there has been a strenuous and fairly successful struggle. This proves that the Soviets have no intention of tolerating that unbridled promiscuity which finds its most destructive and poisonous expression in prostitution” Furthermore, if a women could not own land, or file for divorce she is bound legally to a man her entire life, and even if she were not legally bound to him, her only source of income and shelter would be the home of her husband or father. The problem of gender equality is more deeply rooted than the legal binding of a woman to the house, the family problem Kollontai explains is “a problem as multi-facetted as life itself”.

The Bourgeoisie and Proletarian conflict was not limited to issues of gender inequality, the Bolshevik revolution threatened every aspect of bourgeoisie life. The bourgeoisie class could not exist in a communist, or even in a socialist Russia; they thrived off material wealth. The basis of inequality, gender and economic, lie within, as Marx outlined, in historical materialism.

 It must be kept in in when evaluating sources from Orlando Figes, due to allegations by the owner of the Russian rights to the book, Anna Piotrovskaya, of the novel containing “factual inaccuracies… misrepresentations in the original transcripts of interviews”. Figes’ book provides an engaging narrative of the Russian revolution, however his sources are limited in their reliability. The greatest limitation in the exploration of Kollontai’s contributions during the Russian Revolution lie within the dismal number of contemporary historians who have written about her; many primary sources are available, however, not many secondary. In order to evaluate her significance, one must infer from the information given, and relying on the overlaps between primary and secondary sources, even if their do not specify Kollontai.

To what extent was Vladimir Lenin’s Soviet government in the period of 1917 to 1924 able to separate the Russian Orthodox Church from the State?


This extended essay has focused on evaluation of the extent, to which the Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin was able to separate Christian Orthodox Church from the State. It analysed the fundamentals and purpose of the separation, measures taken both legally and informally to implement it, and whether opposition to the regime was present. Furthermore, it evaluated the success of separation with respect to the Soviet society. In order to investigate the research question, sources from educational articles and historical non-fictional books were obtained, several being in the original language of Russian. Investigation into historical background leading up to formation of USSR was conducted to give insight on the reasons for a hostile attitude towards religion. Information was gathered on Marx’s views on the role of religion in society, which have influenced Lenin’s ideas. Thereby, it was discovered that Marx did not believe religion had a place in the Communist society. The magnitude of anti-religious legislation in the Soviet state was explored, with which the government wished to undermine the Russian Orthodox Church in terms of property, education and financial support. The methods of oppression towards religious officials were discovered to be forceful and merciless, aiming to destroy the inner structure of the church. The presence of opposition was recognized and analysed in terms of its varied nature and substantial significance for maintaining church’s prestige. It was found that faith remained to have a large influence on the Soviet society, while religious members continued their practices unofficially. Imposition of violence has not destroyed determination to keep the Orthodox religion alive in the Soviet State, as it paradoxically united all believers in the struggle against governmental antireligious policies. Overall, it was concluded that Lenin was not successful in separating the Orthodox Church from the state to a full extent.

Word Count: 298 words


Vladimir Lenin was a Bolshevik Communist revolutionary and the indisputable leader of October revolution of 1917. The Bolshevik party was formed in 1903, aiming to establish socialism as a foundation for Communism in Russia. Bolsheviks, as translated from Russian, meant ‘the big ones’, the ‘majority’, differing from a Menshevik party due to a disagreement over the characteristic of an effective revolutionary group. Lenin believed that the revolution must be carried out by a small and organized group of revolutionaries rather than a large party. Until 1922 Russia was going through an extremely unstable period in its history: it was forced to recover from the fall of autocracy while the sudden seizure of power by the Bolshevik party resulted into bloody civil war. The tensions within the country reduced due to the domination of the Bolshevik-led Red Army, a Russian military revolutionary defense force, created in 1917, over the belligerent White Army. Thus, the Soviet Government consisted entirely of Communist Party officials, the former Bolsheviks, who now ruled the newly established Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Russian Orthodox Christianity deeply associates faith with truth, its believers being called ‘pravoslavnye’, the ‘right worshippers’, making the idea of purity and accurate preservation of religious traditions its unique foundation.  Lenin, himself an atheist, was convinced that, amongst other factors, abolition of religion must take place if a society wishes to become Communist. His attempt to abolish Orthodox Christianity in the Soviet Union demonstrated the impact and value of religion as an institution on society, as it was seen as a threat bound for elimination. The original idea of secularization of the Soviet State came from Karl Marx, a German philosopher, who in his work ‘The Communist Manifesto’, written in cooperation with Friedrich Engels, outlined religion as a ‘bourgeois prejudice’, an illusion unable to contribute to the happiness of the masses. His arguments had a significant impact on the degrading relationship between the Communist state and the Orthodox Church in the early years of existence of the Soviet Union as its leader, Lenin, believed that religion was an obstacle to the ideological destination point of USSR.

Thus, in order to explore the extent to which Vladimir Lenin’s Soviet Government in the period of 1917 to 1924 able to separate the Russian Orthodox Church from the state, this essay will firstly discuss the unique ideas of Marx, which introduced Lenin to unacceptability of religion in a Communist state. It will examine the legal measures taken to separate the church from the State in USSR including those concerning property, religious organizations, and education with evaluation of their success. Furthermore, the essay will investigate methods of oppression towards the church with emphasis on religious officials evaluating whether those has an impact on the process of separation of Orthodox Church from the state. Finally, it will assess the significance and achievements of the opposition groups towards the actions of the Soviet Government.

John Keegan, Jennifer Wynot and Aleksii Marchenko present their positing with the perspective of strong disagreement that the separation of Church from the State was a successful notion during Lenin’s rule specifically with provision of alternative reasons for the verdict further discussed in this essay. However as asserted by Michael Bourdeaux, Lenin was able to eventually achieve his objective of separation.

The following topic is intriguing as it allows an exploration of the role of religion during a controversial time period Russia’s history. As Orthodox Christianity possessed a large role in Russian culture since it was adopted in 988, examining the effect of Soviet regime on the Orthodox Church in the early twentieth century provides significant insight into how far suppression of a religious system impacts the lives of individuals and society as a whole.

Karl Marx’s Original Idea

Marxist ideology had a significant influence on soviet policy in terms of separation of the Church from the State. Marx recognized the injustice of societal structure as the major reason for the existence of religion, ‘the opium of the people’, necessary to abolish if a state wished to transform itself into a classless society. Karel Dobbelaere emphasizes the importance of Marx’s claim of religion being required by the wealthier class to support the idea of an afterlife and prevent those experiencing misfortune from standing up to the existing regime, as it had a large impact on the Russian leftist politicians. Lenin, being one of them, was guided by ‘The Communist Manifesto’ to the notion of existing unfair treatment of the working class within the capitalist society,  which encourages religion to prosper.  Thereby, Lenin has willingly adapted a Marxist attitude towards religion based on his personal assumptions, which aided to lay the foundation for a potentially successful abolition of Russian Orthodox Church from the State.

Religion and Soviet Law

Lenin wished to begin the separation of Church from the State through legal measures, thus creating a framework for further the anti-religious actions taken by the government.

Communists saw religion as a potential rival when competing for power over the Soviet masses. Therefore, as Sheila Fitzpatrick outlines, the official governmental aim was to defeat the ‘temptations of the bourgeois life’, where religion was classified as more shameful than drunkenness and crime. Lenin was not delusional concerning the difficulties of separation, as he realized, that evidently the society of 1918 was far from its ability to give up Orthodox faith. The Bolshevik government made a decision that it would have to interfere in order to facilitate the process of abolition of religion through legislation.

Thus, one way that Lenin was able to separate the Church from the State was by establishing a Decree of Separation of Church and State and School from the Church on 20th of January 1918.  The decree promoted ideas such as freedom of religious consciousness and private practice of religion. Religious activity was no longer subsidized, while registration of births, marriages and deaths, previously carried out by the Orthodox Church, was a duty legally delegated on to the civil authority. Another formal request for separation appeared in an alternative form in the official constitution of the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic, officially adopted by the Congress of Soviets in 1918. Thus, as argued by Christel Lane, the separation of Church from the State was theoretically successful, legally promoting forceful elimination of dominance of Orthodoxy in the Russian society. Nevertheless, as suggested by John Keegan, this did not guarantee a significant negative shift in the mass sentiment towards religion by as elimination of the deeply rooted religious traditions from societal makeup would be extremely challenging with most of the existing Soviet State remaining mostly rural, agrarian, and devout.

Religious Education and Youth

Edmund King highlighted, that education in the Soviet Union partially obtained a political function of separation of Church from the State. Historically, religion was in the foundation of Russian education since the 1880s. As claimed by Richard Pipes, Lenin considered this when targeting the Russian Orthodox Church as an institution through the decree of 1918. The government no longer funded religious class in public or private schools. It transferred all previously Church-controlled institutions to the Commissariat of Enlightenment, Narkompros, which took charge of administration of public education in USSR.  This significantly reduced status of the Church due to an inability to increase awareness of young individuals about God. The Young Pioneer Organization for children of younger age and Komsomol for adolescents, were youth organizations with largely anti-religious aims established in 1918. The youth would engage in social activities whilst being persuaded to eliminate religion from their daily life and set up an anti-religious corner in their rooms. Latchesar Ochavkov highlights, the first generation brought up without a strong religious influence on their education was manipulated to adapt an atheistic stance. However, as argued by Ilya Zemstsov, anti-religious education had a less significant effect on separation of Church and the State due to persistent impact of commonly religious family values than political persecution.

Religion and Property

The public religious property laws altered under Lenin’s government as those aimed to separate the Church from the State by undermining its significance materialistically. A ‘Decree on Land Nationalization’ of November 1917 left the government in full control over the fate of religious property. Article thirteen of the Decree of Separation of Church and State and School from the Church targeted the place of religion in society in terms of wealth and belongings, which it possessed, stating that all religious property must be made state-owned. Undoubtedly, this decreased the institution’s power and made it no longer able to provide the masses with an appropriate place of worship, where they sought religious support. This presented a considerable loss to the Orthodox Church, the material power of which was diminished, while the working possibilities for priests and other religious officials were limited, thus effectively separating Church from State.

The Place of Priests

However, the government recognized that it must also eliminate arguably the most influential part of the institution, the religious officials. Many openly preached against the government and spread the orthodox sentiment, becoming a large obstacle for the success of separation of Church from the state.

Firstly, an article of the Soviet Constitution of 1918 denied monks and clergy of any denomination the right to vote, threatening their societal position. Then, in the fear a power struggle, the government implemental brutal methods towards religious officials and other Christian believers, such as arrests, exiles and execution.

The inevitable terror of the Soviet regime was brought upon the Christian Orthodox religious officials with the creation of labour camps, one of the first being the Solovki Prison Camp, established in 1921. They were sent there as government criminals, forced to perform hard industrial or agricultural labour and often executed.

The Orthodox priests were put on trial and often arrested for hoarding. Some were forbidden to live in towns, which led to many becoming missionaries, who sacrificed a comfortable lifestyle for faith.  In 1923, a trial of Partiarch Tikhon, the 11th Patriarch of Moscow took place. He had the support of the crowds, and although released, he appeared to be as a ‘broken man’ after the process, dying only two years later.  Thus, the way in which the religious officials were treated could be certainly classified as oppression, which was not only physical, but also psychological.

Another consequence of constant persecutions was its inability of the Russian Orthodox Church officials to practice the “errand of mercy”, allowing the church to operate as a charity. Nevertheless, provision of humanitarian aid continued, opposing the idea of class struggle propagated by the Soviet Government. Charity missions organized by fraternities were formed from 1917 to 1922, becoming the great examples of the values of a truly religious life. As suggested by Aleksii Marchenko, those gained the Orthodox Church a large amount of faithful supporters. Lenin’s objective was considerably undermined as that support mutely proved that the Church was remaining to be a respected institution in the Soviet State.

Opposition to the regime

The forced separation of the Church from the state, although argued by Michael Bourdeaux to be progressively successful with emergence of the 1918 Decree, was not functioning the way the Soviet Government had desired. The concept of ‘inner-church’, preservation of faith ‘within oneself’, introduced by former religious officials remaining untracked by the government, became very widespread among the religious people. ‘Counter-revolutionary groups of church folk’ emerged, while passionate believers organized pilgrimages to various holy sites as well as private inside gatherings for prayer. Moreover, the Church did not fail to negatively react and chose to oppose the newly established anti-religious laws, considering them as open discrimination. The Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church had decided to issue an official decision concerning the opposition to the government on the 5th of April in 1918.

The Soviet government wished to denounce religion in the eyes of the faithful through an attempt to reveal religious fraud exercised by the Russian Orthodox Church by exposition of false relics, however this led to considerable resistance. For instance, an attempt of relic confiscation and fraud exposition from the Alexandra Nevsky Lavra Monastery in 1918 did not take place due to mass protests.

As argued by Jannifer Wynot, it was not only the Orthodox spirit of the religious Soviet people, which has kept the religion alive through the years of the Leninist rule, but also the notion of Orthodox monasticism. Russian Orthodox Church members met secretly and were able to keep a sense of community, even in labor camp conditions. Their faith and courage to stand up to the regime disproved the illusion that religion could be effectively abolished within the State. This notion threatened the inherent aim of the Soviet government to separate the Church from the State. It effectively proved, that the faith could not be destroyed from within, but only externally in the form of restriction and regulation.


The process of separation of Church from the State led to an extensive degradation of the political significance of the Russian Orthodox Church and of its relationship with the Soviet State. One of the most significant separation acts was the Decree of 1918, which hindered the significance of Orthodoxy in the society by authorizing liberty of religious practice, as well as introducing perversion of educational and legal institutions with respect to establishment of the anti-religious sentiment. One could argue that Lenin had in fact had many powerful ideas concerning religion abolition and has made attempts to enact it with varying success. However, although many were unable to stand up to the forcefulness and brutality of the regime and thus the immediate success of separation was present, mentally most Russians remained loyal to the Russian Orthodox Church. This contributed to prevalent public dissatisfaction with the way the Soviet regime approached one of the most fundamental aspects of the Russian society. Uprisings took place even with presence of official religious fraud proof, indicating that Russians were reluctant to accept ineligibility of Christian Orthodoxy. Meanwhile monks and priests, although often forced to leave their positions, chose to stay undercover and continue the practice of religion and preaching, rather than feel safe and completely abandon their practices. Therefore in his seven-year rule Lenin was not able to fully abolish the Russian Orthodox Church from the Soviet State, involved in continuous struggle with actively and passively resisting religious officials as well as devoted believers. In the end, oppression seemed to be the trigger for opposition unity rather than utter separation of the churches around USSR and which is what the Soviet leader has not considered, as a result facing a failure the his implementation of the Marxist theory. Thus, the questions which remain out of the scope of this essay include the evaluation of how accurately the Marxist theory on religion abolition suited Russian societal position, and to whether violence and oppression were the main driving forces behind the effective aspects of separation rather than anti-religious propaganda. Orlando Figes argues that Lenin’s belief that human nature could be differed by changing the social conditions in which people lived, was utopian. Possibly, this was the major underlying reason why Vladimir Lenin was not entirely effective with his aim of alienation of the Russian Orthodox Church from the Soviet State.

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14.    Keegan, John. Survival: The Russian Orthodox Church. John Keegan, 2007. Web. 02 Nov. 2014.
15.    Kenez, Peter. "Introduction." Introduction. A History of the Soviet Union from the Beginning to the End. New York: Cambridge UP, 1999. Print.
16.    Lane, Christel. Christian Religion in the Soviet Union: A Sociological Study. Albany: State U of New York, 1978. Print.
17.    Leith, James A., Ian Germani, and Robin Swales. "Impact of the French Revolutionary Tradition on the Propaganda of the Bolshevik Revolution." Symbols, Myths and Images of the French Revolution: Essays in Honour of James A. Leith. N.p.: Canadian Plains Research Center, 1998. Print.
18.    Lenin, Vladimir I. "Socialism and Religion." Novaya Zhizn [Moscow] 3 Dec. 1905, 28th ed.: 83-87. Marxists Internet Archive. Web. 28 July 2014.
19.    Lenin, Vladimir. "The April Thesis: The Tasks of the Proletariat in the Present Revolution." The Marxists Internet Archive. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2014.
20.    Marx, Karl. "Bourgeois and Proletarians." The Communist Manifesto. Moscow: Progress, 1969. 20. Marxists Internet Archive. Web. 21 Aug. 2014.
21.    Marx, Karl, and Joseph J. O'Malley. Critique of Hegel's 'Philosophy of Right' Cambridge: U, 1970. Print.
22.    Molyneux, John. "International Socialism: More than Opium: Marxism and Religion." International Socialism: More than Opium: Marxism and Religion. International Socialism, 24 June 2008. Web. 28 July 2014.
23.    Pares, Bernard. "Religion in Russia." Foreign Affairs 21.4 (1943): 638-39. JSTOR. Web. 13 Sept. 2014.
24.    Peris, Daniel. Storming the Heavens: The Soviet League of the Militant Godless. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1998. Print.
25.    Pipes, Richard. The Russian Revolution. New York: Knopf, 1990. Print.
26.    Rabinowitch, Alexander. The Bolsheviks Come to Power: The Revolution of 1917 in Petrograd. New York: W.W. Norton, 1976. Print.
27.    Rayapen, Lewis C. A. "RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN THE SOVIET UNION." International Journal on World Peace 6.4 (1989): 77-81. JSTOR. Web. 20 July 2014.
28.    Saba, Paul, ed. "Class Struggle in the USSR." Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism. 6th ed. Vol. 6. N.p.: People’s Tribune, 1974. Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line. Web. 02 Nov. 2014.

29.    Sevcenko, Ihor. "THE CHRISTIANIZATION OF KIEVAN RUS'" The Polish Review 5.4 (1960): 29-35. JSTOR. Web. 14 Sept. 2014.
30.    Simon, Gerhard. Church, State, and Opposition in the U.S.S.R. Berkeley: U of California, 1974. Print.
31.    Solovetsky Camp. Solovki Camp. Solovetsky Island." Solovetsky Camp. Solovki Camp. Solovetsky Island. AdSprouts - Magazine and Media Kit Solutions, n.d. Web. 24 June 2014.
32.    Spring, Joel H. Pedagogies of Globalization: The Rise of the Educational Security State. Mahway, NJ: L. Erlbaum Associates, 2006. Print.
33.    Unger, Aryeh L. The Totalitarian Party: Party and People in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. London: Cambridge UP, 1974. Print.
34.    U.S. Department of Justice. "WWI Casualty and Death Tables." PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 09 Aug. 2014.
35.    Wynot, Jennifer Jean. Keeping the Faith: Russian Orthodox Monasticism in the Soviet Union, 1917 1939. College Station, TX: Texas A & M UP, 2004. Print.Marx, Karl. The Communist Manifesto. Moscow: Progress, 1969.
36.    Zajda, Joseph I. "Chapter 2." Schooling the New Russians: Transforming Soviet Workers to Capitalist Entrepreneurs. Alberta Park: James Nicholas, 2006. Print.
37.    Zemtsov, Ilya. "Atheistic Education." Encyclopedia of Soviet Life. New Brunswick, U.S.A.: Transaction, 1991. Print.
38.    Zemtsov, Ilya. "The Struggle for Succession." Chernenko: The Last Bolshevik: The Soviet Union on the Eve of Perestroika. New Brunswick, NJ, U.S.A.: Transaction, 1989. Print.
39.    Марченко, Алексий. Религиозная политика советского государства в годы правления Н. С. Хрущева и ее влияние на церковную жизнь в СССР. Vol. 46. Moscow: Издательство Крутицкого Подворья, 2010. Print. 

 How far can Lenin be considered an Orthodox Marxist?

                     How far can Lenin be considered an Orthodox Marxist? This is the issue with which this essay concerns itself. In order to narrow this question I focused on three main points of comparison between Marx and Lenin. What is socialism? How does one realize socialism? Meaning what are the specific steps needed to achieve a socialist society. And lastly how does one administer socialism? Meaning what is required for socialism to function after a successful revolution.
                     I took into consideration various elements for my research. First primary sources in the form of original works. These formed the basis for any comparisons I made. Sticking to the original documents also alleviated any misinformation or personal interpretations by experts from my research, as the primary sources come straight from Lenin and Marx themselves. I then proceeded onto the secondary sources. Especially valuable to this investigation was Noam Chomsky, an anarchist and political commentator since the 1960s. His view that Lenin was extremely far removed from Marx is what prompted me to explore this topic in the first place. Chomsky’s interviews, books, and lectures provided me with invaluable information. The works of historians such as Robert Service and Christopher Read also proved to be enlightening and their research and comparisons of Lenin to Marx were crucial to my own writing.
                     The conclusion I came to was not all that surprising to me. Chomsky had a great influence on my opinion of Lenin throughout this process, however even without that bias the evidence was clear. Lenin was not an Orthodox Marxist in his time and should not be considered one by us. Lenin was very adept at twisting Marx in order to raise public support and take power. However his actions after his seizure of power speak against him being an Orthodox Marxist.      

Word Count: 299

Table of Contents
Abstract.............................................................................................................................. 2
Introduction....................................................................................................................... 4
Body................................................................................................................................... 6
Conclusion...................................................................................................................... 17
Bibliography................................................................................................................... 19


                     On the night of November 6th 1917 Lenin’s Bolshevik Party took power in a coup d’état and claimed the revolution for a workers paradise had been won. They had succeeded in winning the first state for Marxist style socialism. However, soon questions began to arise in the international socialist community about the Marxist nature of Lenin’s revolution. In the words of Chris Read: “Lenin had alienated all the major figures of European Marxism.”[1] How far could Lenin be considered an Orthodox Marxist? The international socialist community was divided. Some such as Leon Trotsky, Lenin’s ally in the revolutionary efforts, proclaimed Lenin to be the “disciple of Marx in theory and in practice”.[2] However not all shared this sentiment. Peter Kropotkin, a Russian anarchist, denounced Lenin saying that his “actions are completely unworthy of the ideas he holds”.
                     Even in the modern day this question is important and later historians have expressed similar doubts. For example, Robert Service wrote “I do not share […] the conviction that [Lenin’s] actions derived entirely from orthodox doctrine.”[3] With the world questioning how true Fidel Castro’s or Hugo Chavez’s brands of socialism are. It is important to return to the man they all claim to follow: Lenin. If Lenin’s premise that he created a society based on orthodox Marxist socialism was faulty, then the basis for Castro’s or Chavez’s claim to create a socialist society following Lenin is faulty, too. How far was Lenin an Orthodox Marxist? Was he truly trying to change lives or simply after power?    

Word Count: 269    

                     As a follower of Marx, Lenin believed that the ultimate goal was to establish socialism in order to create a worker’s paradise free of oppression and the dangers of capitalism. Marx established socialism as a political theory on the left of the spectrum. He defined it as the ability of man to “produce rationally for his own necessity instead of being ruled by a blind power”.[4] To Marx socialism was the freedom to produce out of necessity, together, and for ones own sake rather than for a capitalist employer, state-run apparatus, or other form of authority. Marx believed that socialism was the last stage in a progressive history.[5] History was not random to Marx. Rather, it was a series of evolutions that would culminate in the establishment of socialism. Crucially for Marx socialism refers to a stateless society. Furthermore socialism was the idea that workers controlled the means of production and their own communities[6] instead of the bourgeoisie. Lenin on the other hand believed that socialism was distinct from communism. Socialism was a stage in the development of history that would eventually lead to communism[7], a significant disparity between him and Marx. Marx and Engels, the co-author of the Communist Manifesto and other writings, used the terms socialism and communism interchangeably. Communism was a timeworn expression that had been replaced by the more modern expression socialism by the time of Marx.
            Lenin on the other hand saw a difference in order to justify the development of state capitalism starting with the New Economic Policy in 1921. This is decidedly unorthodox Marxist since state capitalism is the concentration of land and capital in the hands of the state rather than the hands of the workers. This stance leads one to question Lenin as a follower of Marx. In order to understand the distinction between Lenin and Marx one must analyze the Marxist theory of socialism and compare it to the Bolshevik or Leninist view of socialism. Marx and Lenin both agreed that history could be divided into stages of development. Each stage was primarily defined by the mode of production and the division of labor that dominated it. They also agreed on the primary stages of development: tribalism, feudalism, and capitalism. However after the stage of capitalism Lenin and Marx diverge. Marx goes on to define two stages of socialism early and late[8]. He concluded that class conflict correlated with the maturity of capitalism. As capitalists exploited the proletariat through ever longer working hours with minimal compensation, the workers would rise up and defeat the bourgeoisie.[9] This would put the proletariat in control of production and ultimately lead to socialism with free access to goods based on needs and no distinction between classes. Lenin on the contrary defined socialism as the stage in between capitalism and communism. He stated that the workers would form a state or “nationwide syndicate”[10] in order to control the means of production. A state would still exist and capital would still be produced, however it would be state capital. This difference is crucial. Marx’s description of socialism was free access to goods based on needs without a state apparatus to restrict the workers. Lenin defined socialism as a form of state capitalism in which workers were still employed by the state to raise capital for the state. Not only does this clash with the Marxist idea of  “continued revolution”[11] but it also rejected the idea of a stateless society. Chris Read pointed out the irony: “[…] there is an irony about Lenin’s vigorous pursuit of the Marxist line. It was not what Marx himself thought was the case."[12]
Lenin was suggesting that socialism be confined to one nation that was governed by a state apparatus. The process Lenin outlined created a state that organized and controlled production and produced capital. Marx however sought a society in which workers were independent, completely abolishing the state and capitalism.   

                     Marx and Lenin also differed greatly on the realization of socialism. In Marxist terms the realization of socialism had several clear stages. Before detailing each stage it is important to note that Marxism holds to the idea that the proletariat will spontaneously rise up and abolish the bourgeoisie state[13]. Marx elucidated that the proletariat must form “national unions[14]” as the first step in order to win control of the state. On the road to socialism control of the state and its apparatus are crucial because it allows the proletariat to control the source of its oppression. The proletariat must then make the state democratic. This is essential as many revolutions “perfected this machine (the state apparatus) instead of smashing it”.[15] Marx was referring to the failure of the 1851 workers revolution in France, which was hijacked by Louis Bonaparte when he stormed the legislative assembly and declared himself emperor. Marx was concerned that once the proletariat gained control of the state it would not democratize it but a select few would take hold of power and rule over the rest. To avoid a centralization of power in the hands of the few after taking the state and democratizing it the proletariat must in fact dispose of capitalism and start common ownership of the means of production. By owning the means of production the proletariat is freeing itself from wage labor the dependence on the capitalist bourgeoisie. Once the ownership of production is collectivized and completely owned by the proletariat Marx argued the state apparatus would become obsolete and cease to exist[16]. This would subsequently lead to an early form of socialism where commodities are restricted and distributed equally. Once sufficient commodities had been produced everyone would be able to access them based on need[17].
                     According to Marx the bringing about of socialism remains strictly in the hands of the proletariat and it is essential that the proletariat develop the conscious effort to fight the bourgeoisie on its own. Lenin had a very different view on the establishment of socialism. He believed the proletariat “exclusively by its own efforts is able to develop only trade union consciousness.[18]” This was opposed to Marx’s theory that workers will trounce the bourgeoisie on their own and is vital in understanding the difference between Marx and Lenin. Lenin was convinced that the proletariat was not able to develop the intelligence to carry out the revolution. Lenin argued that in order to develop class-conscious ideas one had to be schooled in political science. The proletariat did not have access to such education therefore they were not able to develop the ideas corresponding with revolution[19]. Out of these arguments Lenin formed the basis for his vanguard argument. Lenin believed that in order for the proletariat to succeed in its struggle against oppression it would need help from the “party”. In Lenin’s mind the party consisted of those members of the bourgeoisie who identified the proletariat class struggle and were enlightened enough to recognize that there cause was just. This party would form a vanguard that would provide the leadership and serve as the driving force for the revolution. In truth Lenin’s theory on a party as the vanguard of the revolution was proved false. The February Revolution of 1917 was completely unforeseen to Lenin and the Bolshevik Party. Schliapnikov the leading Bolshevik in the capital declared, “Give the workers a pound of bread and the movement will peter out”. On March 15th the Tsar abdicated, the revolutionaries had won out without the help of Lenin’s party. The failure of the Bolshevik Party and Lenin to foresee the Russian Revolution of 1917 demonstrates that Lenin did not understand the worker’s movements and their struggle. His vanguard had not led the revolutionary effort, instead it was catching up to them.  Lenin’s vanguard theory did not hold true, on the contrary it seemed Marx’s prediction that the proletariat could successfully achieve freedom on its own was correct. Lenin on the other hand took matters into his own hands and in a coup d’état he wrestled the revolution from the hands of the proletariat into the clutches of the Bolsheviks.
                     Another point of conflict between Marx and Lenin is that Marx concluded that the state apparatus must be destroyed after the proletariat has seized power. This difference may seem trivial, however it is the decisive factor, which allowed Lenin to seize power in October. Lenin argued that his October Revolution was justified because he was smashing a bourgeoisie state apparatus. According to Marx any state apparatus should have been left intact until the revolution was complete and an early form of socialism had been established. As Robert Service aptly pointed out, it was telling that Lenin “not once did […] mention Marxism in his various speeches of 25-27 October.”[20] Lenin had to twist Marx’s words multiple times in order to maintain his Marxist credentials in front of the international socialist community. For example Lenin quotes Marx in State and Revolution as saying that it is essential that in “every real people's revolution on the Continent not to transfer the bureaucratic-military state machine from one hand to another, but to smash it.[21]" Lenin was quoting from one of Marx’s letters to his fellow German socialist Louis Kugelmann. In reality Marx never mentioned the state in his letter to Kugelmann[22] he was simply stating that a “military machine” must not be simply handed from one oppressor to the other it must be smashed. Meaning that in a realized socialist world there would be no need for a military, because the proletariat would be the owners of production, commodities, land, produce, etc. as a result there would be no need to enforce these principles using force. Lenin substitutes “military machine” with “state” in order to defend his power grab when in fact Engels had made it quite clear that the destruction of the state was to come after a successful revolution and implementation of early socialism. In a letter to Eduard Bernstein a member of the German Social Democratic Party, Engels addresses the question of whether the abolition of the state is supposed to occur before or after the revolution. Engels states “It is simply a question of showing that the victorious proletariat must first refashion the old bureaucratic, administratively centralized state power before it can use it for its own purposes.[23]” Engels implies that the proletariat must seize power and “refashion” or democratize the state before “using it” or destroying it. Lenin was either oblivious of this fact or conveniently ignored it when writing his essay The State and Revolution and brought about his version of socialism in Russia. Furthermore one can examine the atmosphere of international socialism during and directly after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia to examine how Lenin’s contemporaries viewed his approach. In December 1920 at the Congress of the French Socialist party Léon Blum (leader of a prominent anti Bolshevik faction within French socialism) denounced Bolshevism as a distortion of Marxism. He argued that the Bolsheviks had created a semi permanent dictatorship executed by a single party state[24]. Blum even argued that based on these reasons the Bolshevik Party should in no way be affiliated with the new Communist International. Rosa Luxembourg, another prominent socialist theorist of the late 19th and early 20th century, denounced Lenin’s vanguard theory as centralist and non-Marxist[25]. Not only were major theorists of the socialist movement opposed to Lenin’s interpretation of Marx, the international socialist community was overwhelmingly in agreement that Russia was the last place in which socialism could be brought about successfully. Marx and Engels made it clear that socialism could only be developed in a highly industrialized country that had a population made up of workers. In the words of Noam Chomsky “at the beginning of the 20th century Russia was a backwater country filled with peasant farmers.[26]” Russia was not industrialized; its population was 80% peasant and the infrastructure was severely lacking. In short Russia was years behind the developed industrialized powers of central Europe. Marx would never have condoned Lenin’s attempt to bring about socialism in Russia. Lenin completely ignored Marx’s rules on the stages of evolution. He attempted to bring about socialism in a country that had not yet reached the capitalist stage. Lenin’s thoughts on the realization of socialism stood in stark contrast to those of Marx. He did not believe in a revolution driven by the power of the proletariat, he did not adhere to Marx’s writing on the stages of evolution, he was denounced by prominent orthodox Marxists of the time, he made distinctions between socialism and communism, and his judgment that Russia was ready for a socialist revolution was incredibly misguided.

                     The administration and maintenance of socialism were incredibly important to both Lenin and Marx. Marx‘s theory on a post-revolutionary society was clear. The proletariat would own the means of production and distribute the commodities they produced based on need. Everyone would be equal and the state would be obsolete. Decisions about production numbers and land would be made by a democratic vote[27]. Land would be collectivized, just like industry, and private property would cease to exist. Lenin agreed with Marx on all of these points. On his return to Russia he issued the April Thesis, which rejected the Provisional Government and proclaimed “all power to the soviets”[28] as well as “peace bread land”[29]. This was a decidedly Marxist declaration; Lenin was advocating power to the people so that they could control their own fate. He was denouncing a government made up of the same bourgeoisie that was part of the Tsars Duma. Lenin recognized that nothing had changed and that things had simply been renamed, so he demanded change. However after seizing power from the Provisional Government Lenin’s actions diverged strongly from what he had written in the April Thesis. The Bolsheviks proceeded to “destroy all forms of socialist initiative that had developed in Russia since the February Revolution.”[30] Lenin shut down and disbanded the Constituent Assembly. He undermined the soviets, destroyed factory councils, and banned all opposing political parties. The Communist Party became the only legal party in Russia and it controlled the state apparatus from the politburo to the lowest village official. Everyone in government was a member of the Communist Party, a party that had not been democratically elected and did not have popular support. Lenin’s actions were unmistakably against the teachings of Marx and resembled a totalitarian government more than any socialist utopia. Production was not in the hands of the workers; instead it was in the hands of the state. Marx had mandated that the state be destroyed after the revolution yet Lenin kept it intact and expanded it. Lenin’s Russia became a fusion of state capitalism and totalitarian bureaucracy[31]. The state decided what had to be produced and how much of it. It decided what the rights of the people were and who was a counter revolutionary. Additionally, the state and the Bolshevik party were synonymous. Lenin had not achieved a socialist paradise, he had succeeded in destroying the peoples revolution and replacing it with oppression. These developments were not lost to the orthodox Marxists of the day. “Freedom only for the members of the party is no freedom at all”, stated Rosa Luxembourg[32]. She went on to reason that the Bolsheviks had implemented a government that was far removed from “genuine socialist policy”[33]. The unorthodox nature of the Bolshevik revolution and the non-Marxist policies such as the New Economic Program, were a result of Lenin’s misjudgment. The Bolsheviks had to speed up Marx’s evolution of stages if they were to achieve socialism. This meant that they had to achieve the stage of capitalism before being able to move onto socialism. This was because socialism according to Marx required an industrialized economy with a population made up of largely proletarian workers. It is worth noting that Bakunin argued long before Lenin was born that Marxism was a theory that bred totalitarianism and oppression. Bakunin reasoned that the state, not the bourgeoisie capitalists, was the structure that enabled the oppression of the proletariat. Bakunin also reasoned that in order for dictatorship of the proletariat to occur there would have to be a subordinate class. He maintained that the success of the proletariat would be built on the backs of another subservient class. Bakunin denounced communism as the “negation of liberty”[34] and he believed that Marx’s socialism would end “necessarily in the centralization of property in the hands of the state”[35]. Essentially Bakunin was describing the system that Lenin put in place in Russia. Lenin’s Communist Party controlled all state property through the policy of War Communism, and later established State Capitalism through the NEP. According to Bakunin Lenin was the natural continuation of Marx. Lenin was unquestionably non-orthodox Marxist in his decisions once he was in power, however according to Bakunin Lenin was everything that was wrong with Marxism. Bakunin had recognized the dangers present in Marxist theory and the potential for exploitation in Marxist writings. In that sense Lenin was the continuation of Marxist ideology. So perhaps Lenin was a Marxist because Marxism unintentionally propagated the oppression of the proletariat and the centralization of property for the state. However the orthodox Marxists of Lenin’s time denounced him as a centralist deviation of Marx. Lenin was not considered a Marxist by his “comrades” in central Europe and his realization and administration of socialism in Russia was not considered “true socialism”[36] but rather state capitalism and totalitarianism. 

Word Count: 3066


            How far could Lenin be considered an Orthodox Marxist? The evidence collected and summarized in this essay, as well as the thoughts of historians such as Robert Service leave little doubt that Lenin was not an Orthodox Marxist. His definition of socialism diverges considerably from Marx’s own. Lenin believed that the party was the driving force behind the revolution not the workers. Apart from the differences in theory Lenin created a state system although the state should have been abolished according to Marx. Lenin was therefore not an Orthodox Marxist. In addition some like Noam Chomsky have named him a “right wing deviation” of Marx and socialism in general. The extent to which that is true is debatable however it raises a fair point: what was Lenin? The difficulty in claiming to know anything about the true nature of Lenin and his theory is that it was constantly changing in the same way that Marx changed his theory. Had Lenin lived longer perhaps he would have gone back to Orthodox Marxism. However one can only judge based on what one knows and given the known facts Lenin was not an Orthodox Marxist.   

Word Count: 199

Bakunin, Mikhail Aleksandrovich, and Sam Dolgoff. Bakunin on Anarchy. New York, NY: A.A. Knopf, 1972.Chomsky, Noam, Peter R. Mitchell, and John Schoeffel. Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky. New York: New Press, 2002.  "In Depth: Noam Chomsky." Interview by Noam Chomsky and Brian Lamb. Book TV. C-Span 2. June 01, 2003.  "Noam Chomsky on Anarchism, Marxism & Hope for the Future." Interview by Kevin Doyle and Noam Chomsky. Red and Black Revolution, May 1995, 17-21. Lenin, Vladimir Ilyich. Collected Works. Vol. 25. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1964.  Lenin, Vladimir. Collected Works. Vol. 24. Moscow: Progress, 1964.  Lenin What Is to Be Done: Burning Questions of Our Movement. Moscow: Progress Publishers Moscow, 1987.  Luxembourg, Rosa, and Bertram Wolfe. The Russian Revolution. New York, NY: Workers Age, 1940.  Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1959.   Marx, Karl. The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. New York: International Publishers, 1963.  Marx, Karl, Friedrich Engels, and E. J. Hobsbawm. The Communist Manifesto: A Modern Edition. London: Verso, 1998.  Newman, Michael. Socialism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press, 2005.  Read, Christopher. Lenin: A Revolutionary Life. New York, NY: Routledge, 2005.  Service, Robert. Lenin: A Biography. London: Pan, 2010.  Trotsky, Leon. "Lenin, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (1870-1924)." Encyclopedia Britannica. 13th ed. 1926.  Trotsky, Leon, and Irving Howe. Basic Writings of Trotsky. New York: Random House, 1963.  Ward, Colin. Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press, 2004.

[1] Read, Christopher. Lenin: A Revolutionary Life. New York, NY: Routledge, 2005,.72.
[2] Trotsky, Leon. "Lenin, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (1870-1924)." Encyclopedia Britannica. 13th ed. 1926.
[3] Read, Christopher. Lenin: A Revolutionary Life. New York, NY: Routledge, 2005, 5.
[4] Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1959, 571
[5] Marx, Karl, Friedrich Engels, and E. J. Hobsbawm. The Communist Manifesto: A Modern Edition. London: Verso, 1998.
[6] "In Depth: Noam Chomsky." Interview by Noam Chomsky and Brian Lamb. Book TV. C-Span 2. June 01, 2003.
[7] Lenin, Vladimir Ilyich. Collected Works. Vol. 25. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1964, 381-492.
[8] Marx, Communist Manifesto.
[9] Marx, Communist Manifesto.
[10] Lenin, Collected Works, 381-492
[11] Marx, Communist Manifesto.
[12] Read, Christopher. Lenin: A Revolutionary Life. New York, NY: Routledge, 2005, 24.
[13] Marx, Communist Manifesto.
[14] Marx, Communist Manifesto.
[15] Marx, Karl. The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. New York: International Publishers, 1963.
[16] Marx, Communist Manifesto.
[17] Marx, Communist Manifesto
[18] Lenin What Is to Be Done: Burning Questions of Our Movement. Moscow: Progress Publishers Moscow, 1987.
[19] Lenin, What is to be Done?.
[20] Robert Service, Lenin, 315.
[21] Lenin, State and Revolution, Chapter III
[22] April 12 1871
[23] January 1st 1884
[24] Newman, Michael. Socialism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press, 2005.
[25] Michael Newman, Socialism.
[26] Chomsky, Noam, Peter R. Mitchell, and John Schoeffel. Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky. New York: New Press, 2002.
[27] Marx, Communist Manifesto.
[28] Lenin, Vladimir. Collected Works. Vol. 24. Moscow: Progress, 1964.
[29] Lenin, Collected Works.
[30] Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power.
[31] Trotsky, Leon, and Irving Howe. Basic Writings of Trotsky. New York: Random House, 1963.
[32] Luxembourg, Rosa, and Bertram Wolfe. The Russian Revolution. New York, NY: Workers Age, 1940.
[33] Rosa Luxembourg, The Russian Revolution.
[34] Michael Newman, Socialism.
[35] Bakunin, Mikhail Aleksandrovich, and Sam Dolgoff. Bakunin on Anarchy. New York, NY: A.A. Knopf, 1972.
[36] Ward, Colin. Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press, 2004.
   Internal Assessment

What role did the Aurora Play in the Storming of the Winter Palace?

Word Count: 2200 

May 2022
 The Essay Question: What role did the (Cruiser) Aurora play during the Storming of the Winter Palace? This is worth investigating because of a statement made by Leon Trotsky that the Kronstadt-sailors and by extension the Aurora were the vanguard of the Revolution “that led the majority of the proletariat” during October 1917.1

Section A- Identification and Evaluation of sources
The first source is Orlando Figes’ book “A People's Tragedy” from 1996. The origin of the source is valuable as Figes is an expert on the Russian Revolution; he is a member of the editorial board for the Journal of Russian history. Figes had much greater access to Russian archives than previous historians, more sources that emerged over time from archives, as well as decades of secondary research. The book’s purpose is to inform about the full story of the Russian Revolution and what life was like for the average Russian citizen from 1891 up until the death of Lenin in 1924. The goal of the book in Figes’ words is “to convey the chaos of those years, as it must have been felt by ordinary [people,] not as a march of abstract social forces and ideologies”. This makes the sources valuable for explicit analysis on the role of the Aurora, as Figes’ diligent aim to discuss nuisances and casualties of the Revolution. One limitation of this source is that only a small segment of the entire book is devoted to the October Revolution and might therefore not be as in depth as hoped. Also it relies on secondary sources and the Author has faced professional criticism for his historiography and objectivity. So the interpretations presented in the book might be questionable.2

 The second source evaluated in depth is Sergei Eisenstein’s 1927 movie “October”, silent-film commissioned by the October Jubilee Committee. The origin of the movie is valuable since it was filmed less than ten years after the October Revolution with veterans of the Storming of the Palace as advisors to Eisenstein. Thesourceisthereforegoingtohelpbalanceoutthesecondarysource as is from the time and is able to draw upon first hand accounts, such as Nikolai Podvoisky one of the movie’s who actually stormed the Winter Palace.3 The purpose of the movie is in part to educate and instill pride into the Russian People about the October Revolution. However, the portrayal of some events may be manipulated for the purpose of propaganda. Eisenstein’s background, a value as it proves he is very skilled in conveying meaning over film, and a limitation as he was a well known propaganda director. October is in Eisenstein’s own words a “docudrama”, and there is a real attempt to document the events of the Revolution while also likely dramatizing them to entertain audiences. The film can still provide value as it shows us how the communist party wanted the role of the Aurora to be perceived, however as a piece of propaganda we must acknowledge its limitations.

Section B- Investigation
On the night of October 25th 1917, the Bolsheviks planned to overthrow the Chairman of the Provincial Government, Alexander Kerensky, whose 9 month old government used the Winter Palace to house its chief council chamber. This concentration of Provisional Government loyalists and the historic importance of the Palace made its control paramount to any coup attempt. The Bolshevik leadership had planned to overthrow their former anti-Tsar ally in a decisive raid on numerous strategic points, the Winter Palace being the most important, right next to the Neva-River. The location directly on the river bank meant that it was accessible to ships such as the Armored Cruiser Aurora, with a length of 130m, 14x 152mm guns and 590 men.4

 In order to answer the research question this essay will investigate three important moments of the Storming of the Winter Palace and what role the Aurora played in each of them, the planning, the build up, and the attack on the Palace itself.
According to Eisenstein the Aurora was a pivotal element in the planning phase of the coup. In the movie we see Lenin and the rest of the Bolshevik leaders around a map of Petrograd, Lenin draws the Aurora on the map with a thick pen, after that he makes markings around Peter & Paul Fortress indicating that it ought to be captured by the Kronstad Sailors from the ship.5 After this he makes numerous marks around Petrograd which are all occupied by Bolsheviks in the following scene. Then Lenin draws another line around the Palace indicating he wants his men to surround it. However, he does not put a mark onto the Palace as it seems he wants to avoid having to enter it.
The sailors of the Aurora being tasked with and capturing Peter & Paul Fortress and its arsenal, meant that the enormous stock of guns, cannons and artillery could be used by the communists against the Winter Palace if necessary, which would help further persuade the ministers in the Palace to simply surrender.67 Eisenstein’s movie indicates that the Aurora was incredibly important during the Bolshevik planning phase as they needed the ship and its sailors to secure the large weapons stocks to make besieging the Winter Palace effective.
On the other hand Figes argues differently, according to him the Bolshevik plan was not nearly as well thought out as Eisenstein portrayed, and was rather “simple”.8 According to Figes the plan only consisted of capturing Marinsky Palace and dissolving the Provisional Council present, demanding the surrender of the remaining Provisional Government at the Winter Palace, which if refused would be stormed by a signal given from Peter & Paul Fortress and Aurora.9
So Figes suggests that the Aurora still played a part in the little planning that was done, as it would have been used as a signaling device to coordinate the assortment of different Bolshevik-troops which could not communicate. However, while the signal from the Aurora was a critical element of the plan according to Figes, this could also be done by the Fortress and as is mentioned before the Aurora this indicates this role was intended for the Fortress but could also be done by the Ship. This suggests that the Ship only played a minor role in the planning phase.
Overall, the Aurora was not a critical element of the plan although it was still expected to play an important role, to capture the Fortress and as a possible signaling point. The main reason why its role was not critical was because the Peter & Paul Fortress could fulfill the same signaling duties as the ship.
Moving onto the initial stage of the coup, the plan of the Bolsheviks would see the entire Provisional Government replaced by 10am of October 25th. The seizing of key points was not achieved due to the “incompetence of the insurgents”.10
Figes’ account of the initial phase of the coup includes an analysis of all the things that went wrong at the Fortress but says remarkably little about the Aurora.11 Figes mentions the guns at the Fortress were “rusty museum pieces which could not be fired”, after the sailors scrambled to find guns that could be fired it turned out there was no munition to fit the barrels.1213 Further issues arose with the signaling as no lantern was found that could be raised on the flag pole.14 The fact that sailors struggled so much to send a signal from the Fortress, suggests the Aurora was not as important as the Fortress. At no point in this does Figes talk about any issues surrounding the Aurora. While this might be because the Aurora faced few issues it might also be because the Aurora was not that important during this phase.
Eisenstein glosses over all embarrassing issues encountered at the Fortress, he, unlike Figes, puts more emphasis on the Aurora, according to his film it seems to be the Aurora that sent the signal to commence the storming.15
 By the eve of the Revolution the Winter Palace had been “surrounded by a ring of steel”.16 An ultimatum was handed to the Provisional Government at 6:50, yet the ministers felt a “solemn obligation to [...] resist”.17 Their resistance made a violent response likelier, as the Bolsheviks would end up needing to use Peter & Paul Fortress and the Aurora to end such resistance.
A flare went up from the Aurora with the caption “THE SIGNAL” in the Movie.18 The Aurora then fired a blank shell at 9pm which was louder than a conventional shot.19 Eisenstein gives this moment great importance, despite him being limited to silent film Eisenstein uses a floating light to represent the shockwave of the blast resonating through the Winter Palace before finding its way to the ministers, who tremble in response. The fact that Eisenstein emphasized the sound of the Aurora firing a blank-shell suggests that it was pivotal in scaring the Provisional Government out of the Palace. Directly after this scene Eisenstein shows a large segment of the Palace garrison fleeing the building, after which the actual shelling began to form the Fortress and the Aurora.
Figes’ account of the storming differs, according to him the signal allegedly came from Peter & Paul Fortress. He does however agree that the blank was “much louder than a live-round” and that this, like in the movie, “frightened” the ministers who dropped to the ground.20 Despite this, Figes critically points out the time disparity between the blank-shell at 9pm, the actual shelling at 10:40pm, and the surrender of the ministers at 2:10am the following day. He also blames the Aurora for the minimal damage done to the Palace as his research suggests all shells fired from the Fortress fell short.
To sum up, the Aurora had a role in intimidating the Winter Palace garrison, it does seem to have been more effective than the Fortress however there were other factors such as small arms fire pouring in from the window.212223 Furthermore the Aurora’s role of bombarding the Palace was not as effective as only two shells hit and “slightly damaged the plaster”.24 The Aurora simply did not live up to its role presented in Eisenstein’s movie, as Figes pointed out the ministers surrendered significantly after the shells struck the building. This means that the Aurora was not by any means a leading cause for the surrender of the provisional government ministers, and although some of the garrison left after the Auroras shots.
Looking at these three phases the role of the Aurora was varied. There is little doubt that its presence on the Neva River across the Winter Place emboldened the Bolsheviks and shaped their planning. During the initial phase of the coup its role became quickly overshadowed by the Fortress. During the attack the Aurora effect on the surrender was questionable at best.

Section C- Reflection
The process of this investigation has certainly exposed me to a variety of different research methods and therefore has shown me many of the challenges that historians face during their attempts to unwind the past. The use of primary sources such as in this case Eisenstein’s October, has shown me how incredibly difficult it can be to investigate topics that have political implications for their culture/society. The image of the Aurora is bolstered onto the Soviet Order of the October Revolution, this matter of national pride put pressure onto Eisenstein to play up its importance in his movie. Especially, the scene where a flare goes up “over the Aurora '' is quite odd to me, the angle used makes it impossible to tell if the flare comes up from the Aurora or if it came from the Fortress hidden behind the ship. This was likely done to avoid confrontation with the Bolshevik image of the Aurora and the reality many of the people he was working with experienced. Although knowing where the flare came from is really important to answer the question what role the Aurora played that night.

 For events like the October Revolution bias is more inevitable than ever and must be addressed by historians by using a variety of sources with different backgrounds in order to get a clear picture of the historical event that is being investigated. For instance a source I ended up using to look at the same event from another perspective was a Guardian article from December 1917 written by an unknown provisional government loyalist from inside the Palace while it was being fired upon. It gave a perspective that outside sources could have never given me, as the Author mentions that one of the things they were actually most scared of was the small-arms and machine gun fire that rained in through the windows from the streets. This is all interesting and relevant to my investigation however due to the world limit I was not able to include this incredibly interesting information. So I thought the other two sources were more clear, and expansive. Furthermore the source was complicated as this source’s Author’s name and position are either not known or were lost during the digital archiving process. For this reason I can see why historians would avoid this source when writing a book. This source made me realise how difficult it can be choosing sources based on their values and limitations.

Figes, Orlando. A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891-1924. New York: Penguin Books, 1998.
“How the Bolsheviks Took the Winter Palace.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, December 27, 1917. https://www.theguardian.com/world/1917/dec/27/russia.fromthearchive.
Leon, Trotsky. “Hue and Cry Over Kronstadt”, The New International (January 15, 1938).
Massie, Robert K. Nicholas and Alexandra. London: Head of Zeus, 2013.
Pretty, Dave. “Pretty on Figes, 'A People's Tragedy: A History of the Russian Revolution'.” H-Net. University of Colorado at Boulder, February 1998. https://networks.h-net.org/node/10000/reviews/10105/pretty-figes-peoples-tragedy- history-russian-revolution.
Ten Days That Shook the World. 1927. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVuf3T3k-W0.
The Cruiser Aurora, General information: Tactic and technical characteristics. (Website 2021) http://aurora.org.ru/eng/index.php@theme=info
Von Geldern, James. Bolshevik Festivals, 1917-1920. Berkeley: University of California Press, c1993 1993. http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/ft467nb2w4/