Monday, January 08, 2007


V. I. Lenin (1870-1924)

Vladimir Illich Ulyanov (later known as Lenin) was born in Simbirsk, Russia, on 10th April, 1870. His father, Ilya Ulyanov, a local schools inspector, held conservative views and was a devout member of the Russian Orthodox Church. Lenin was deeply influenced by the revolutionary political views of his older brother, Alexander Ulyanov, who introduced him to the ideas of Karl Marx.

Lenin was educated at the Simbirsk Gymnasium. His headmaster was F. I. Kerensky, the father of Alexander Kerensky. Although Lenin despised the conservative views of his teachers he still managed to do well in his examinations.

At the of seventeen Lenin read the utopian novel, What is to be Done? by Nikolai Chernyshevsky. Along with Alexander Ulyanov and Karl Marx, Chernyshevsky was the greatest influence on his early political development.

In 1887 Lenin's brother, Alexander Ulyanov, a member of the People's Will, was executed for his part in the plot to kill Tsar Alexander III. As the brother of a state criminal, attempts were made to stop Lenin from entering university. Eventually he was allowed to study law at Kazan University.

While at university Lenin became involved in politics. After one protest demonstration he was arrested and taken to the local police station. One of the police officers asked: "Why are you rebelling, young man? After all, there is a wall in front of you." Lenin confidently replied: "The wall is tottering, you only have to push it for it to fall over."

. . . When Lenin returned to Russia, Lenin and a group of friends, including Jules Martov and Nadezhda Krupskaya, formed the Union of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class.

In 1896 Lenin was arrested and sentenced to three years internal exile in Siberia. Nadezhda Krupskaya joined Lenin in Shushenskoye and they married in July, 1898. While living in exile Lenin wrote The Development of Capitalism in Russia, The Tasks of Russian Social Democrats, as well as articles for various socialist journals. Lenin and Krupskaya also translated from English to Russian, The Theory and Practice of Trade Unionism by Sidney Webb and Beatrice Webb.

Released in February, 1900, Lenin, Nadezhda Krupskaya and Jules Martov decided to leave Russia. They moved to Geneva where they joined up with George Plekhanov, Pavel Axelrod and other members of the Liberation of Labour to publish Iskra (Spark). The paper was named after a passage from a poem: "The spark will kindle a flame". Others who joined the venture included Gregory Zinoviev, Leon Trotsky and Vera Zasulich. Another revolutionary, Clara Zetkin, arranged for Iskra to be printed in Leipzig.

Iskra now became the official journal of the Social Democratic Labour Party, an organization that attempted to unite all socialist groups in favour of the overthrow of the autocracy in Russia.

In 1902 Lenin published a pamphlet, What Is To Be Done? where he argued for a party of professional revolutionaries dedicated to the overthrow of Tsarism. He continued to argue the case for a small party of activists with a large fringe of non-party sympathizers and supporters at the Second Congress of the Social Democratic Labour Party held in London in 1903.

His long-time friend, Jues Martov, disagreed believing it was better to have a large party of activists. Martov won the vote 28-23 but Lenin was unwilling to accept the result and formed a faction known as the Bolsheviks. Those who remained loyal to Martov became known as Mensheviks . . .

. . . In 1913 Lenin moved to Galicia in Austria. He organized a conference of Bolshevik leaders in Zakopane in August. It was later discovered that of the twenty-two men who attended, five, including Roman Malinovsky, were Okhrana agents.

On the outbreak of the First World War Lenin was still living in Galicia in Austria. He was arrested in August, 1914 as a Russian spy, but after a brief imprisonment he was allowed to move to Switzerland. At a meeting at Berne he outlined his views on the war. He branded the conflict as imperialist and claimed that those socialists who supported the war were betraying the proletariat.

Lenin was appalled by the decision of most socialists in Europe to support the war effort. He now devoted his energies to campaign to turn the "imperialist war into a civil war". This included the publication of his book, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism. Along with his close collaborators, Gregory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev, Lenin arranged for the distribution of propaganda that urged Allied troops to turn their rifles against their officers and start a socialist revolution . . .

More on Spartacus.

Images of Lenin.

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