Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (real name Ulyanov) was born on April 10 (22 new style) 1870 in Simbirsk (now Ulyanovsk) in a family of an inspector of public schools of the Simbirsk province Ilya Nikolayevich Ulyanov and his wife Maria Alexandrovna (née Blank).
The Ulyanovs had a large family: Vladimir had five brothers and sisters — the elder Alexander and Anna, the younger Olga, Maria and Dmitri (another sister and brother died in infancy). Parents were quite loyal to the political system of the Russian Empire, being part of its establishment; however, at the same time, they did not prevent the children from getting acquainted with all the variety of social views (including opposition views) that were popular among the intelligentsia. I. N. Ulyanov, who at the peak of his career became the Director of public schools of the Simbirsk province, rose to the high rank of an Active State Councilor and thus received a hereditary nobility for himself and his children. He died of a brain hemorrhage on January 24, 1886 at the age of 55.
Before the family could recover from this shock, another blow struck them in May 1887. For participation in the preparation of the assassination attempt on Emperor Alexander III, Alexander Ulyanov, a student of the Physics and Mathematics Faculty of St. Petersburg University, was arrested and then sentenced to death by hanging.
Many people even today believe that it was the execution of the elder brother that had a decisive influence on Vladimir’s choice of life path. In 1917, a turning point for Russian and, in many ways, for world history, fate brought together in a political struggle for power in the country the leader of the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Party V. I. Ulyanov (then already known under the pseudonym Lenin) with the Chairman of the Provisional Government A. F. Kerensky. However, it was the father of Lenin’s future political rival F. M. Kerensky, who headed the Pedagogical Council of the Simbirsk gymnasium, supported the petition of Vladimir Ulyanov, who graduated from the gymnasium with a gold medal, to enroll in Kazan University, despite the fact that he was the brother of a state criminal.
In 1887, Vladimir passed the entrance tests and became a law student. He studied, however, not for long. Three months later, in December 1887, a seventeen-year-old freshman took part in student riots caused by dissatisfaction with the new University Charter. Among the most active participants, Ulyanov was arrested, expelled from the university and exiled to his mother’s estate in the village of Kokushkino, Kazan province. Vladimir was included in the list of “suspect persons” subject to police supervision.
The mother’s requests for an opportunity for him to return to his studies, his own application for reinstatement at the University were rejected. There is no doubt that the most important factor in the attitude of the authorities to these petitions was not only the young man’s early opposition, but also his close relationship with the executed Alexander Ulyanov. Vladimir, however, did not give up, actively engaged in self-education, to which he devoted most of the time in the Kokushkino wilderness, and then in Kazan, where he was allowed to return in the fall of 1888.
Like many other representatives of the younger generation of that time, Ulyanov was influenced by the ideas of the Russian writer, theorist of utopian socialism N. G. Chernyshevsky. Hatred of autocracy, intransigence to liberalism, contempt for the so-called “theory of small deeds”, revolutionary impatience of the Narodniks, belief in socialism, readiness for personal self-sacrifice — for many people these conditions seemed to be sufficient for transforming society on a better basis, for the jump from the kingdom of non-freedom to the kingdom of social justice.
In 1889 Ulyanov became acquainted with the Russian translation of the first volume of “Capital” by K. Marx, which was gaining popularity in the circles of the Russian democratic public. At the same time he read the work “Our Differences”, written by the famous theorist and propagandist of Marxism in Russia, the founder of the first Marxist group “Liberation of Labor” G. V. Plekhanov. From that moment V. I. Ulyanov, according to him, “began to become a Marxist.”
In 1890, the authorities nevertheless allowed Vladimir, who had not been noticed for three years in illegal activities, to take the external exams for the course of the Law Faculty of St. Petersburg University. He passed the exams with excellent marks, thus obtaining the right to professional activity as a lawyer. Ulyanov served as an assistant attorney first in Samara and then in St. Petersburg, where he moved in August 1893.
However, Vladimir apparently was not very interested in a career in the legal field. In parallel with his legal practice, he begins to study political and socio-economic processes that took place in contemporary Russia, and thinks about the prospects for its development. And, most importantly, he consciously chooses the path of professional revolutionary activity and illegal work. In May 1895, during a short trip abroad, Ulyanov in Switzerland managed to meet with G. V. Plekhanov, inGermany — with one of the leaders of German social democracy V. Liebknecht, in France — with the prominent Marxist theorist and Karl Marx’s son-in-law P. Lafargue, with other well-known figures of the international social democratic movement.
Returning to St. Petersburg Ulyanov together with L. Martov (Yu. O. Tsederbaum), managed to unite the scattered Marxist circles of the capital into the “Union of Struggle for the Liberation of the Working Class”. The milestones of the life path of Ulyanov and his new associate largely coincided, which probably contributed to their rapprochement: Martov was also expelled from the University for revolutionary activities, he was also under the public supervision of the police and even managed to serve a year and a half in prison. In Vilna (now Vilnius), which at that time was part of the Russian Empire, where Martov was exiled, a political party was formed with his participation — the General Jewish Workers’ Union of Lithuania, Poland and Russia (since 1897 — the Bund).
Ulyanov’s former fascination with populism was a thing of the past; the spread of Marxism in working circles, the struggle for socialism in its Marxist interpretation will become for him the main business of life. Now all his attention was occupied by the struggle against populist ideologists, who, in contrast to Marxism, considered it possible for Russia to go over to socialism, bypassing capitalism.
At this time, V. I. Ulyanov met N. K. Krupskaya, who taught at a Sunday evening school for adults. Nadezhda came from an impoverished noble family and was a year older than Vladimir, but this circumstance, which was important in those days, did not embarrass the young people. They were united by mutual attraction, common political views, and participation in the revolutionary struggle. Nadezhda became his companion, and soon his life partner.
In December 1895 Ulyanov, like many other members of the “Union of Struggle”, was arrested and held in prison for over a year. In March 1897, he was exiled to the village of Shushenskoye in the Minusinsk District of the Yenisei province for three years. In Siberian exile he lived mainly on the allowance of a political exile paid by the authorities, literary earnings and his mother’s personal finances. In Siberia Ulyanov wrote several dozen works, including one of his most famous works against Narodniks ideas — the book “Development of capitalism in Russia. Process of forming an internal market for large-scale industry”, which was published in 1899 and put Ulyanov among the most famous Russian Marxists. Here, in Siberia, Ulyanov, who by that time had become a consistent atheist, got married in the local Orthodox Peter and Paul Church so that his “civil” wife N. K. Krupskaya could stay with him.
In February 1900, after the end of his exile, Ulyanov arrived in Pskov, where he was allowed to live, and got a job at the provincial statistical Bureau. However, official legal activity became only a formal cover. In fact, Ulyanov began preparing for publication of social-democratic newspaper “Iskra” and magazine “Zarya”. In April 1900 in Pskov, an organizational meeting on the creation of revolutionary press bodies was held in a safe house with the participation of prominent Social Democrats. In the draft statement of the editors of “Iskra” and “Zarya”, which was written by Ulyanov, his idea of priority tasks was formulated: “… It is necessary for us, the Russian Social Democrats, to unite and direct all efforts to the formation of a single and strong party, fighting under the banner of a revolutionary Social Democratic program …” “For Russian Social Democracy”- he declared — “it is time to take the road of open preaching of socialism, the road of open political struggle, and the creation of an all-Russian Social-Democratic body should be the first step on this road.” Ulyanov also emphasized the radicalism of his ideas about the social-democratic movement. “We resolutely reject,” he writes, “any attempt … to obscure the revolutionary spirit of Social Democracy, which is the party of social revolution, mercilessly hostile to all classes that stand on the basis of the modern social system.”
Soon Ulyanov managed to go abroad, where the editorial office of the newspaper “Iskra” settled down first in Munich, and then in London and Geneva. He lived in emigration for almost 17 years with a short break. It was at this time that his famous pseudonym “Lenin” appeared. Vladimir Ulyanov managed to leave the territory of the Russian Empire using a forged foreign passport issued under this particular name. The first work signed by Ulyanov with this pseudonym, the article “Mrs. “Critics” in the agrarian question. First essay “, appeared in the magazine “Zarya” in December 1901. In November 1903 Ulyanov left the editorial board of “Iskra” due to disagreements with G. V. Plekhanov and his supporters.
In the book “What Is to Be Done? Burning Questions of Our Movement”, which was published in 1902, Lenin outlined his idea of the Social Democratic Party as a united militant organization of professionals capable of “turning Russia over”,” bringing together and merging the spontaneously destructive force of the crowd and the consciously destructive force of conscious revolutionaries”.In this work he wrote: “Give us an organization of revolutionaries, and we will overturn Russia!” Lenin’s political opponents, including former associates, saw in his proposals an attempt to create not a party of the working class, but a sect of conspirators, not burdened with moral standards.
In July — August 1903, the Second Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) was held in London. At its meetings Lenin consistently defended his views on the principles of creating “a party of a new type “. During the discussion of clause 1 of the Party Rules on membership, a split occurred between the supporters of Lenin and Martov. Lenin suggested that everyone who recognized the party’s program, supported the party financially and personally participated in the activities of one of the party organizations should be considered a party member. Martov opposed the wording of personal participation. In voting, Martov received 28 votes, and Lenin — 22 with 1 abstention. However, during the elections of the Central Committee of the RSDLP, after some of the delegates left the Congress, Lenin’s supporters received a majority. These votes first conditionally, and then ideologically and politically, divided the party into “Bolsheviks” (supporters of Lenin) and “Mensheviks” (supporters of Martov). The Bolshevik faction became organizationally independent after the Prague Conference in January 1912, and five years later, in summer of 1917, it was actually constituted into a separate party of the RSDLP (b).
The first Russian revolution of 1905-1907 found the leader of the Bolsheviks in Switzerland. At the III Congress of the RSDLP held in London in April 1905, Lenin emphasized that the main task of the revolution that had begun was the destruction of the autocracy and the remnants of serfdom. Lenin outlined these ideas in his book “Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution”, written in June — July 1905. In this work he insisted on the necessity of armed uprising of masses and the hegemony of the proletariat in the revolution. In his opinion, the proletariat had not only “to carry out the democratic coup to the end”, but also “to carry out a socialist coup … to break the resistance of the bourgeoisie by force …”.
In November 1905, Lenin illegally, under a false name, arrived in St. Petersburg, where he headed the publication of the illegal Bolshevik newspaper “New Life”. On the eve of his return to Russia, at the beginning of October 1905, Lenin issued a proclamation “The Tasks of the Detachments of the Revolutionary Army”. In it, Lenin wrote: “The killing of spies, policemen, gendarmes, the bombing of police stations, the release of those arrested, the seizure of government funds to use them for the needs of the uprising — every detachment of the revolutionary army must be immediately ready for such operations.”
Following the representatives of another left-wing organization — the Socialist Revolutionary Party (SRs) — the Bolsheviks began to regularly resort to expropriations (abbreviated as exes), that is, acts of armed violence in order to seize money especially of state institutions, to finance their underground activities. Previously skeptical of the terrorist practice of the Social Revolutionaries, Lenin now addressed the party members: “When I see the Social Democrats, declaring proudly and complacently: We are not anarchists, not thieves, not robbers, we are above this, we reject guerrilla warfare,”- I ask myself: do these people understand what they are saying?” The activities of the leading “troika” of the so-called “Bolshevik Center”, which included Lenin, A. A. Bogdanov (Malinovsky) and L. B. Krasin, allowed to solve many pressing problems of the party, including the task of financing it. The formed militant groups were engaged in expropriations, and then sent the money thus obtained to the needs of the Center. The most significant exs were the robberies of the branches of the State Bank in Helsingfors and Tiflis in 1906 and 1907.
The defeat of the revolution and the danger of arrest forced the Bolshevik leader to leave the Russian Empire. In January 1908 through Helsingfors and Stockholm he returned to Geneva, followed by Paris, the town of Poronin near Krakow, and again Switzerland — Bern and Zurich.
In emigration, according to one version in 1909 in Brussels, according to the other — in 1910 in Paris, Lenin met 35-year-old Social Democrat, I. F. Armand (née Élisabeth Pécheux d’Herbenville), who became his heartfelt affection. Lenin soon broke off the relationship that had arisen or, as Armand wrote in a letter to him, “held” parting. The Bolshevik leader, however, maintained friendly relations with Armand until her death from cholera in 1920.
In emigration, the opportunity to direct the activities of the Bolshevik faction in Russia and abroad was narrowed. Under these conditions, Lenin continued to edit party publications, collaborated with foreign and Russian newspapers, in 1908 wrote and published the philosophical essay “Materialism and Empirio-Criticism”.
In May 1912, the first issue of the legal Bolshevik newspaper “Pravda” was published in St. Petersburg. The leader of the Bolsheviks regularly wrote to “Pravda”, sent letters to the editorial board, gave advice and instructions. In two years this newspaper published about 270 Lenin’s articles and notes.
In October 1905, as a result of the events of the first Russian revolution, the Manifesto of Emperor Nicholas II established the State Duma — the first Russian Parliament, proclaimed certain civil liberties, including freedom of speech. Lenin used it as an additional opportunity to legally fight the existing political regime. The Social-Democratic faction with the participation of the Bolsheviks, which proclaimed the goal of overthrowing the monarchy and changing the legal political system of the country, nevertheless was legally operating in the Fourth State Duma (1912-1917), often characterized by some of its contemporaries (and later by Soviet historiography) as a “reactionary” one.
The Tsarist government, of course, hindered opposition activity in every possible way, fought against its radical manifestations. One of the means of combating underground revolutionary organizations was political provocation, the introduction of agents into the ranks of the revolutionaries, the recruitment of the weak and the doubters. Roman Malinovsky, a member of the RSDLP Central Committee and the head of the Bolshevik group in the fourth State Duma, became a secret agent of the security branch of the Police Department. With his help police arrested N. I. Bukharin, S. G. Ordzhonikidze, Y. M. Sverdlov, and I. V. Dzhugashvili in 1910 — 1913. Lenin highly valued Malinovsky and trusted him. “Dear friend,” this is how the leader of the Bolsheviks addressed him in letters, emphasizing the confidence of their relationship. In July 1914, Lenin became a member of the party “investigative commission on rumors about the political dishonesty of R. V. Malinovsky” and did everything to get him out of the suspicions of his comrades. “A stuffed fool”, “a scoundrel ” – this is how the leader of the Bolsheviks characterized the Social Democrat A. A. Troyanovsky, who challenged the conclusions of the Commission. Until the beginning of 1917, when the Extraordinary Commission of Inquiry of the Provisional Government on the basis of documents of the Police Department revealed the cooperation of R. V. Malinovsky with the police, Lenin stubbornly insisted on the innocence of his confidant.
When the First World War broke out in August 1914, the Bolshevik leader lived in the town of Poronin near Krakow, which was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Russian citizen was arrested, but soon, after the intervention of the socialist deputy of the Austrian parliament V. Adler, he was released, and Lenin was able to leave for neutral Switzerland. Here he actively participated in various events of the Social Democrats, in international socialist meetings. At the conferences in Zimmerwald (1915) and Kienthal (1916), he headed the left-wing minority which advocated the slogan of “turning the imperialist war into a civil war”.
From the fact of the World War, Lenin concluded that the collapse of the world capitalist system was near. In the book “Imperialism as the Highest Stage of Capitalism. Popular essay “, written in 1916, but published a year later, he argued that the progressive potential of the capitalist economy and bourgeois democracy was exhausted, that “imperialism” (“monopolistic capitalism”) was the last stage of capitalism, “the transition from capitalist to a higher social and economic structure”. Lenin considered the mass patriotic upsurge at the beginning of the war, including in Russia, to be transient, and the scourges of war to be capable of creating a revolutionary situation in each of the belligerent states. Lenin considered it proven that the First World War “was imperialist on both sides (i. e., aggressive, predatory, rapacious).”
Lenin’s course towards World Revolution was expressed in the slogans of turning the Imperialistic War into a Civil War and promoting the defeat of their governments. The leader of the Bolsheviks argued that “defeatism” did not contradict the patriotism of “class-conscious proletarians”, as “the worst enemies of the motherland” were the monarchy, landlords and capitalists.
On the eve of the fall of the monarchy in Russia Lenin assumed that “5, 10 and more years” remained before the revolution. Just a couple of months before the February Revolution of 1917, speaking in Zurich at a meeting of Swiss working-class youth with a report on the 1905 revolution, Lenin said: “We, old people, perhaps, will not live to see the decisive battles of this coming revolution …”.
The leader of the Bolsheviks took the unexpected news of the February Revolution and the overthrow of the autocracy with extreme enthusiasm. He considered it necessary to return urgently to his homeland in order not to miss the moment and start the process of conquering political power for the implementation of the ideas of socialism in Russia. Moreover, it was about “conquest” in a direct and unambiguous sense. In his “Letters from Afar” written in Zurich in early March 1917, Lenin insisted on the need to arm the proletariat, to strengthen, expand, develop the role, importance of the strength of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, as the only guarantee of freedom and destruction of tsarism “to the end”. “The proletariat”,- Lenin expressed confidence, “can and will go, using the peculiarities of the present transitional moment, to the conquest of a democratic republic… and then to socialism.”
With the direct assistance of the German government in the group of Social Democrats, many of whom were Bolsheviks, Lenin went through Germany and then Sweden to Russia in the extraterritorial railway carriage (as Russian bourgeois press wrote, a “sealed carriage”), since saw no other possibility of a quick return. In another such carriage, in May 1917 his former comrade L. Martov returned from Switzerland to Russia with another group of political emigrants, accompanied by German officers, without border control of passports and the right to enter the platform within hostile Germany.
On April 3 (16), 1917, Lenin arrived in Petrograd. The Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, the majority of which were Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, arranged a solemn meeting for him at the Finland Station. The leader of the Bolsheviks was personally met by the chairman of the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet Menshevik N. S. Chkheidze, who expressed hope for “rallying the ranks of all democracy”. Speaking from an armored car at the station square, Lenin, contrary to the expectations of the organizers of the meeting, called on the audience to immediately continue the “social revolution”.
The next day, April 4 (17), his famous speech on the tasks of the proletariat in the given revolution took place, the theses of which (“April Theses”) were soon published in the newspaper “Pravda”. Lenin sharply opposed the dominant sentiments among the Social Democrats, including the Bolsheviks, about the further expansion of bourgeois-democratic reforms, support of the Provisional Government and defense of the revolutionary Fatherland. The party was offered a program of radical actions. Lenin pointed out the “uniqueness of the current moment”, which consisted “in the transition from the first stage of the revolution, which gave power to the bourgeoisie… to its second stage, which should give power to the proletariat and the poorest strata of the peasantry”. Lenin set the task of the day to carry out agrarian reform with confiscation of all landowners’ lands and nationalization of all lands in the country; banking reform and the merger of all banks of the country into one national bank; exercising control over the production and distribution of products by the Soviets. Not a parliamentary republic, but a republic of Soviets, with the abolition of the police, army, bureaucratic apparatus and replacement of the standing army with the general arming of the people. “No support for the Provisional Government, the end of the imperialist war, the elimination of the police and army, radical land reform and the transfer of all power to the Soviets of Workers and Soldiers’ Deputies,”- Lenin said. In the article “On the Dual Power,” published on April 9, 1917 in the newspaper “Pravda”, Lenin noted “the remarkable originality of our revolution,” which he saw in the fact that “it created a dual power,” which, in his opinion, was that “next to the Provisional Government, the government of the bourgeoisie, a still weak, embryonic, but still undoubtedly existing and growing other government has emerged: the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.” “For the autocracy of the Soviets,” — such was the slogan put forward by Lenin, completing this work. Lenin had to do his best to convince the Bolshevik leadership to accept his program of actions and the course towards a socialist revolution.
In the unfolding controversy about the fate of socialism in Russia, Lenin rejected the arguments of political opponents who argued that the country was not ready for socialism because of its economic backwardness and insufficient culture of the working people, declared the danger of a split in democratic forces, the inevitability in this case of dictatorship and civil war. On the eve of the October coup, G. V. Plekhanov again turned to this topic: “The socialist system presupposes at least two indispensable conditions: first, a high degree of development of productive forces, the so-called technology; secondly, a very high level of consciousness among the working population of the country. Where these two necessary conditions are absent, there can be no question of organizing the socialist mode of production. If the workers tried to organize it in the absence of these conditions, then nothing good would come of their attempt, they would only be able to organize famine … “
But such objections did not frighten the Bolshevik leader. He continued to persistently explain the ideas of the April Theses and in a short time won their support. On April 14 (27), the Petrograd city-wide conference of the Bolsheviks approved Lenin’s theses and made them the basis of its work. At the I Congress of Soviets on June 4 (17), 1917, in reply to the Minister of the Provisional Government, Social Democrat I. G. Tsereteli, Lenin said: “He said that there was no political party in Russia that could express its readiness to take power entirely upon itself. I answer: yes! … our party does not refuse this: every minute it is ready to take power entirely. “
In July 1917, the Provisional Government, by its resolution, created a Special Commission of Inquiry “to carry out a preliminary investigation of the armed uprising on July 3-5.” The Bolsheviks were accused of collaborating with Germany and organizing an uprising against the legitimate government during the so-called government “July crisis”, when mass demonstrations in Petrograd under the slogan “All power to the Soviets!” escalated into armed clashes. A decree was issued to arrest Lenin and a number of Bolshevik leaders. Hiding from the police, Lenin again went underground. He had to change more than a dozen safe houses, together with G. E. Zinoviev (Radomyslsky) to hide in the vicinity of Petrograd, and then to leave for the Grand Duchy of Finland.
Being in an illegal position, Lenin continued to direct party work and preparations for the seizure of power. The proximity of the realization of a long-standing dream, to which he dedicated his life, made him start thinking about the future practically. The book “State and Revolution” was mainly written in a hut near Razliv Lake. In it Lenin attempted to sketch a program of reforms in Russia after the victory of the socialist revolution. The leader of the Bolsheviks argued that the future republic of the Soviets was a form of the dictatorship of the proletariat, i. e. “A power not shared with anyone and based directly on the armed force of masses.” Lenin dreamed of a “commune-state” without bureaucracy, a professional army, police, with the involvement of all working people “in turn” to management. Accounting and control — these were the main conditions, according to Lenin, necessary for the “adjustment”, for the correct functioning of the first phase of communist society. Lenin promised that, upon coming to power, the Bolsheviks in the shortest possible time would satisfy the aspirations of workers, peasants and soldiers, prevent an economic catastrophe, ensure the convening of the Constituent Assembly and recognize its decisions.
In September 1917, Lenin wrote a letter to the Central Petrograd and Moscow Committees of the RSDLP (b) “The Bolsheviks must take power” and a letter to the Central Committee of the RSDLP (b) “Marxism and uprising”. “”We have before us all the objective prerequisites for a successful uprising,” — was how the Bolshevik leader assessed the current moment. It is necessary “to put on the turn of the day an armed uprising in St. Petersburg and Moscow (with the region), the conquest of power, the overthrow of the government.” Treat the uprising in a Marxist way, i. e., as an art, it meant, in Lenin’s opinion, to organize the headquarters of rebel detachments, to mobilize the armed workers, to “arrest the general staff and the government,” to immediately occupy the telegraph and telephone, etc.
In the article “The crisis is ripe,” published on September 29 (October 12) in the newspaper “Rabochy Put”, the Bolshevik leader expressed his confidence that “we are standing on the threshold of a world proletarian revolution,” and in Russia “a national crisis is ripe.” In the part of the article, which was not published, but was intended for distribution to members of the Central Petrograd and Moscow Party Committees, Lenin raised the question of his withdrawal from the Central Committee, leaving for himself the freedom of agitation in the lower ranks of the party if his intention to immediately seize power was not supported by the party leadership.
On October 7 (20), 1917, Lenin illegally arrived from Vyborg to Petrograd to speed up the preparations for the uprising. An active part in this work was taken by L. D. Trotsky (Bronstein), who had recently joined the Bolsheviks and, who as a result of the Bolshevization of the Soviets, took the place of Chairman of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. At the meetings of the Central Committee of the RSDLP (b) on the 10th (23) and 16th (29) of October, Lenin defended the course of an immediate armed seizure of power, criticized the position of the opponents of the uprising L. B. Kamenev (Rosenfeld) and G. E. Zinoviev. After intense discussions, the members of the Central Committee adopted Lenin’s plan. To lead the uprising the Petrograd Soviet, headed by Trotsky, created a Military Revolutionary Committee to directly lead the process of seizing power, and the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party created a special temporary body — the Political Bureau (Politburo).
This time, previous mistakes were taken into account. Numerous demonstrations were not organized, but a well-planned and skillfully organized operation to seize power was carried out. Armed groups of soldiers, sailors and workers under the leadership of the Bolsheviks without shots occupied all strategically important points of the capital — telephone, telegraph, post office, state bank, bridges across the Neva River, power stations, government offices. Commissars were appointed to the occupied facilities, without whose permission the orders of the Provisional Government were not executed. At the same time, ordinary everyday life continued in the city.
In the afternoon of October 25 (November 7), the deputies of the Petrograd Soviet were informed of the overthrow of the Provisional Government. In the Assembly Hall of the former Smolny Institute, Lenin addressed them with a “Report on the Tasks of the Power of the Soviets” and said the famous words: “Comrades! The workers’ and peasants’ revolution, the necessity of which the Bolsheviks have been talking about all the time, has been accomplished!” In the evening of October 25 (November 7), the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies opened in Smolny. By this time, only the Winter Palace, guarded by a small detachment of troops loyal to the government, remained in the hands of the Provisional Government.
The night of October 25-26 (November 7-8) 1917 marks the beginning of a new era. It is known to many of our contemporaries from the film footage of the storming of the Winter Palace, the breakthrough of the armed detachments through its Main Gate, which is only a vivid artistic image of the creative imagination of the great film director Sergei Eisenstein. In reality, several armed groups of soldiers and sailors, almost without resistance, entered the Palace from the side of the Neva River and arrested the ministers of the Provisional Government.
On October 26 (November 8) Lenin addressed the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets with reports on peace and land. By this time, the Menshevik delegates, Right Social-Revolutionaries and some of the Bundists had left the meeting in protest against the armed seizure of power. The Congress adopted the first decrees of the Soviet government on these issues, prepared by the leader of the Bolsheviks.
The Decree on Peace proposed to “all the belligerent peoples and their Governments to start immediately negotiations for a just democratic peace” without annexations and indemnities, i. e., without the seizure of foreign territories and forcible recovery from the defeated monetary or material compensation, and “unconditionally and immediately” canceled the entire content of the secret treaties of old Russia.
The Decree on Land announced the abolition of landlord (private) ownership of land, the confiscation of lands and estates of nobility, their transfer to local Soviets and Land Committees before the convocation of the Constituent Assembly and contained a peasant mandate, which was almost the main part of the agrarian program of the Socialist Revolutionary Party.
On the night of October 27 (November 9), 1917, the Congress formed the Government of Soviet Russia — the Council of People’s Commissars (Sovnarkom), chaired by Lenin. The new Government undertook to fulfill grandiose tasks that had not been carried out before in world history. The agenda included a complete dismantling of the millennial way of life of people based on private ownership; suppression of its supporters from the privileged classes; creation of political and economic foundations of a socialist system of life without rich and poor. Simultaneously with the socialist perestroika, it was planned to solve the tasks of the “bourgeois-democratic stage” of the revolution, which the previous leadership of the country was unable to accomplish.
The most important acts of the Bolshevik government of the late 1917 — early 1918 became the decrees “On the Eight-Hour Working Day”; “Decree Abolishing Classes and Civil Ranks”; “On Workers’ Control”; “On Civil Marriage, Children and civil registry bookkeeping”; “On the Nationalization of the Banks”; “On the Social Security of Working People”; “On the separation of church from state and school from church” (original title — “On freedom of conscience, church and religious organizations”); “On the Nationalization of the Merchant Fleet”; “On the Socialization of Land”; “On the Nationalization of External Trade”; “On the Abolition of Inheritance.” Most of them were prepared on the basis of projects written by Lenin, taking into account his suggestions and comments.
Once at the helm of the state, the Bolshevik leader did not stand on ceremony with political opponents. One of the first resolutions of the Sovnarkom, signed by Lenin on October 27 (November 9) 1917 — the “Decree on Press” provided for the closure of the press, which called for “open resistance or disobedience to the workers and peasants’ government.” The ban on opposition press was declared a “temporary” measure. However, the temporary measure was preserved for many decades, becoming a fundamental condition for the political survival of the Bolsheviks. On November 28 (December 11), 1917, Lenin signed a decree on the arrest of the leaders of the civil war against the revolution, according to which “members of the leading institutions of the Cadet Party, as a party of enemies of the people,” were subject to arrest and trial by revolutionary tribunals. It is in this document that the term “enemies of the people” is encountered for the first time in the political and legal practice of the Bolsheviks. On the same day prominent cadets — the elected deputy of the Constituent Assembly, Minister of the Provisional Government A. I. Shingarev and the Chairman of the Special meeting on the preparation of draft regulations on elections to the Constituent Assembly, the State Comptroller of the Provisional Government F. F. Kokoshkin — were arrested and imprisoned in the Peter and Paul Fortress, and in January of 1918 they were killed. At a meeting of the SNK chaired by Lenin on December 7 (20), 1917, a punitive body was formed to defend the revolution — the All-Russian Extraordinary (or Emergency) Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage (VChK). After coming to power, the principles of Lenin’s political behavior remained unchanged: a merciless war of extermination of the enemies of the revolution and socialism, a decisive delimitation up to the breaking political and personal relations with vacillating and doubting within their own party.
Lenin did not want the Bolsheviks to share power with anyone. This was clearly manifested during negotiations with the All-Russian Executive Committee of Railway Workers (Vikzhel) and in deciding the fate of the Constituent Assembly. On October 29 (November11) 1917 the Vikzhel demanded that the new authorities form a homogeneous socialist government of representatives of the Social Revolutionaries, the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks. The weight of the demands was reinforced by the threat of a general strike in transport and the refusal to transport revolutionary detachments to Moscow to support the rebels. A split occurred within the Bolshevik leadership. Lenin’s opponents believed that “the formation of a socialist government of all Soviet parties” was necessary, because “without this there was only one way: the preservation of a purely Bolshevik government by means of political terror.” But Lenin insisted on ending the negotiations with the Vikzhel. He was not embarrassed that the Chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee L. B. Kamenev, member of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party G. E. Zinoviev, people’s commissars V. P. Nogin and A. I. Rykov announced their resignation on November 4 (17), 1917.
Lenin repeatedly spoke about the convocation of the Constituent Assembly even before the conquest of power. The Council of People’s Commissars, like the Provisional Government overthrown by the Bolsheviks, was created by the Second Congress of Soviets “until the convocation of the Constituent Assembly.” The idea of its convocation was popular among the people, therefore on October 27 (November 9), 1917, Lenin, as Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars, signed a resolution on holding general elections on November 12 (25). More than half of the total number of voters took part in them. The party of the Right SRs became the winner. Many votes were received by the Left Social Revolutionaries, Cadets, Mensheviks and representatives of national groups. 22.5% of the total number of voters, who came to the polling stations, voted for the Bolsheviks. In general, the absolute majority was won by representatives of the socialist parties. The first meeting of the Constituent Assembly in the Tauride Palace of Petrograd on January 5 (18), 1918 was also the last. The deputies elected as their Chairman the Right Socialist-Revolutionary V. M. Chernov, and not the Left Socialist Revolutionary M. A. Spiridonova, whose nomination was supported by the Bolsheviks and the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries close to them. The deputies refused to accept the text of the “Declaration of Rights of the Working and Exploited People”, written by Lenin, and to recognize the decrees of the Council of People’s Commissars issued by that time. Thus, they determined the fate of the Russian Constituent Assembly, and in many respects their own fate. The next day, January 6 (19), the All-Russian Central Executive Committee (VTSIK of Soviets) adopted a Decree on the Dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, and the armed guards subordinate to the Bolsheviks did not let the deputies into the palace. Demonstrations in support of the Constituent Assembly were dispersed. Lenin justified the dissolution of the meeting as follows: “Any attempt, direct or indirect, to consider the question of the Constituent Assembly from the formal legal point of view, within the framework of ordinary bourgeois democracy, without taking into account the class struggle and civil war, is a betrayal of the cause of the proletariat and a transition to the point of view of the bourgeoisie.”
The Bolsheviks’ new international policy proclaimed in the Decree on Peace, openly rejected the old tradition of interstate relations. Lenin and his associates aimed the proletarians at overthrowing their own bourgeois governments, called on the masses to carry out a world revolution, that would result in a world Republic of Soviets, where national and territorial disputes would no longer be relevant. This policy was reflected in the decree of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of January 21 (February 3) 1918 on the cancellation of state loans (internal and external) concluded by the “governments of the Russian landowners and the Russian bourgeoisie”, and the decree of the Council of People’s Commissars of August 29, 1918 “On the renouncement of treaties of the government of the former Russian Empire with the governments of the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires, the kingdoms of Prussia and Bavaria, the Dukedoms of Hesse, Oldenburg and Saxe-Meiningen and Lubeck “. In this last decree, signed by Lenin, the cancellation of acts, including the partition of Poland, was explained by their contradiction “to the principle of self-determination of nations and the revolutionary legal consciousness of the Russian people, who recognized the inalienable right of the Polish people to independence and unity.” The Bolsheviks published “secret treaties confirmed or concluded by the government of landlords and capitalists from February to October 25, 1917.” The implementation of these measures led to an almost total foreign policy isolation of Soviet Russia.
A serious component of the international policy of the Bolsheviks was the adoption of the “Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples of Russia,” signed on November 2 (15), 1917 by Lenin and I. V. Stalin. It was based on the Bolshevik programmatic thesis of the free self-determination of nations up to the secession. This provoked a parade of sovereignties — independent proto-states appeared throughout the entire space of the former Russian Empire, in which, contrary to the expectations of the Bolsheviks, authority did not belong to the Soviets. Thus, the Ukrainian Central Rada, shortly after the October coup, with its Third Universal, unilaterally declared the autonomy and claims to control vast territories, and after the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly in the 4th Universal, declared the independence of Ukraine.
The Sejm of the Grand Duchy of Finland was the first to enter into negotiations with the Bolsheviks, demanding recognition of the full independence of Finland after the violent breakdown of the old statehood. Hoping for a quick victory of the Red Finns (their uprising began in January of 1918), the Council of People’s Commissars agreed with the Finnish proposals. Lenin signed the Decree on the State Independence of Finland on December 18 (31), 1917.
The withdrawal from the First World War, declared by the Decree on Peace, was not an easy task. The decree was immediately published in the newspaper “Izvestia”- the body of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviets — and broadcast on the radio. But the governments of the Entente countries ignored it, and the acting Commander-in-Chief of the Russian army, General N. N. Dukhonin refused to comply. Only Germany, vitally interested in establishing an armistice on the Eastern Front, announced its agreement to begin negotiations with the Soviet government. In Brest-Litovsk, where the Headquarters of the German command on the Eastern Front was located, separate negotiations between the Soviet government and Germany and other members of the Quadruple Alliance began. After a fierce discussion with left-wing communists led by N. I. Bukharin and supporters of L. D. Trotsky, the leader of the Bolsheviks, achieved the signing of a peace treaty, concluded on March 3, 1918 and soon ratified by the All-Russian Central Executive Committee. Under the treaty, Soviet Russia ceded large territories to Germany and its allies, had to demobilize the army and navy, paid billions in reparations, pledged to recognize the independence of the Ukrainian Republic and enter into negotiations with it. The delegation of the Ukrainian Central Rada signed a peace treaty with the countries of the Quadruple Alliance in the same Brest-Litovsk one month earlier than the Soviet delegation. “Yes, this peace is our gravest defeat,” Lenin admitted. “Yes, this peace is an unprecedented humiliation of Soviet power, but we are not able to outwit history.” Lenin considered the Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty from the point of view of the international policy of the Bolsheviks, as a temporary measure — until the impatiently awaited revolution in Germany, as an integral part of the world revolution. The Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty, extremely unprofitable for Soviet Russia, led to a complete rupture of relations between the Bolsheviks and the only political allies, the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries. On July 6, 1918, in Moscow, the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries assassinated the German ambassador V. von Mirbach and raised a rebellion suppressed by the Bolsheviks by military force.
After the October coup, anti-Bolshevik demonstrations swept the country. The signing of a separate peace treaty did not immediately stop the advance of German troops to the East. Therefore, the Bolsheviks needed a loyal military force. But the first steps in this direction did not create a new army, but destroyed the old one. The decrees signed by Lenin on December 16 (29), 1917 “On the Equalization of Rights of All Serving in the Army” and “On the Election of Officers and on the Organization of Authority in the Army ” cancelled all army ranks and titles, awards and other insignia, introduced the election of command staff from the platoon commander to the commander of the front.
Life, however, quickly got rid of utopian ideas, and the Bolsheviks had to abandon hopes for the general arming of the people as a principle of organizing a new army and return to traditional forms of military construction. On March 4, 1918, by a resolution of the Council of People’s Commissars, signed by Lenin, the Supreme Military Council of the Republic (Revolutionary Military Council) was formed under the chairmanship of L. D. Trotsky. Military specialists (officers and generals of the old army) began to be actively recruited into the new Red Army, and the institution of military commissars was introduced to control them. On May 29, 1918, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee issued a “Decree on Compulsory Recruitment into the Workers ’and Peasants’ Red Army”, which made the transition from the voluntary principle of recruiting the army to compulsory military service.
The lull on the Soviet-German demarcation line allowed Lenin to concentrate his efforts on solving the problems of the socialist reconstruction of the country. In the work “The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Power”, written in March — April 1918, he outlined a program of priority actions in the field of national economy: socializing production, nationwide accounting and control over production and distribution, creating a new socialist discipline, increasing labor productivity, organizing socialist competition, the use of bourgeois specialists. Lenin explained the principles of socialist economic management in simple words, which could well be uttered by a rational capitalist: “Keep the account of money carefully and conscientiously, manage economically, do not loaf, do not steal, observe the strictest discipline in work.”
Lenin purposefully carried out the transition to the policy of Military Communism, which he conceived as a direct entry into socialist society. Its components were the centralization of economic management, the nationalization of industry, the state monopoly on many agricultural products, the curtailment of commodity-monetary relations and the prohibition of private trade, the equalization of workers in obtaining material benefits. The culmination of this policy is considered to be May 1918, when a food dictatorship was established by the Decree of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars “Giving the Food Commissariat Extraordinary Powers to Combat Village Bourgeoisie, Who Were Concealing and Speculating on Grain Reserves”, signed by Ya. M. Sverdlov and V. I. Lenin. Soon, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee adopted another decree, on the organization of committees of the poor to fight the kulaks, and then a decree on the reorganization of the People’s Commissariat of Food (Narkomprod) and local food committees and the formation of armed food detachments of workers under them. “A kind of “Military Communism” consisted in the fact, — wrote Lenin, — that we actually took from the peasants all the surplus, and sometimes even not surplus, but part of the foodstuffs necessary for the peasant, to cover the costs of the army and for the maintenance of workers.”
The “Red Guard attack on capital” was personified by another series of acts that continued the nationalization of the economy. Among them are: the “Decree on Forests,” which abolished private ownership of forests (May 27, 1918); “Decree on the Nationalization of Large-Scale Industry and Railway Transportation Enterprises” (June 28, 1918); “On the Abolition of the Right of Private Ownership of Real Estate in Cities” (August 20, 1918). In March 1919, the 8th Party Congress adopted its second program, which set the tasks: “to continue steadily replacing trade with a planned, organized distribution of products on a national scale”, to strive “to carry out a number of measures expanding the area of the money-free calculation and preparing the destruction of money.” Later, when preparing for the decision to abandon Military Communism and move to a New Economic Policy, Lenin admitted: “We have expropriated much more than we were able to count, control, manage, etc.”
Socialist transformations were reflected in the first Soviet Constitution, adopted in July 1918 by the 5th All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies. In it Russia was proclaimed the Republic of Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies. The “Russian Soviet Republic” was established as a Federation of Soviet national republics. The authors of the Constitution rejected the principle of separation of powers. The All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviets was declared the highest legislative, administrative and controlling body. The Constitution had a pronounced class character, its main task was seen by its creators “in establishing the dictatorship of the urban and rural proletariat and the poorest peasantry… in order to completely suppress the bourgeoisie, abolish the exploitation of man by man and establish socialism”; it enshrined the provision on the deprivation of the electoral rights of citizens “exploiting other people’s labor”.
Immediately after coming to power and then during the unfolding civil war, Lenin repeatedly sanctioned the suppression of the “exploiters.” Until October 1917, the party leader assured that the Bolsheviks — “Jacobins of the 20th century” — would not copy the French predecessors, and “suppression of the exploiting minority” — – the case “relatively easy, simple and natural” — would cost much less blood than an imperialist war with all its disasters and millions of victims. Theoretical views, however, did not fit well with real life. Lenin later admitted that the Bolsheviks used “the most extreme, most desperate methods of civil struggle” to retain power.
On August 11, 1918, Lenin wrote to the Communists of Penza: “Comrades! The uprising of five counties of kulaks should lead to merciless suppression. This is required by the interest of the whole revolution, for now everywhere is “the last decisive battle” with kulaks. The sample must be given. 1) Hang (without fail to hang, so that people can see) no less than 100 notorious kulaks, rich men, bloodsuckers. 2) Publish their names. 3) Take away all the bread from them 4) Appoint hostages…. “
A new round of suppression of dissenters began after the assassination attempt of the former anarchist, and then the Socialist Revolutionary F. Kh. Kaplan (Roitblat) on Lenin on August 30, 1918. The Bolshevik leader was seriously wounded, but survived. A week later, the Council of People’s Commissars adopted a special resolution “On Red Terror,” which provided for the “isolation” of class enemies in concentration camps and the execution of all persons “involved in White Guard organizations, conspiracies and rebellions.” The terror took on a massive character. In May 1919, in connection with the beginning of the offensive of the troops of General N. N. Yudenich to Petrograd, the Bolsheviks decided to “evacuate” the population of Kronstadt. Lenin sent G. E. Zinoviev a telephone message, in which he recommended when evicting to distinguish between the categories of “completely trustworthy,” “undefined” “unreliable,” and the latter should be sent “to concentration camps.” In connection with the same offensive, in a letter to L. D. Trotsky, he demanded to organize an offensive, for which “to mobilize another 20 thousand St. Petersburg workers, plus 10 thousand bourgeois, put machine guns behind them, shoot several hundred and achieve a real mass pressure on Yudenich….” On February 28, 1920, the Bolshevik leader sent a telegram to I. T. Smilge and G. K. Ordzhonikidze to the Caucasian Front: “We desperately need oil, consider the manifesto to the population that we will cut everyone if they burn and ruin oil and oil fields, and vice versa, we will grant life to everyone if Maykop and especially Grozny are handed over intact”.
The leader of the Bolshevik party and the head of the Soviet state did not avoid responsibility for initiation of a civil war. “To all the accusations of civil war, we say: yes, we have openly proclaimed what no government could have proclaimed. The first government in the world that can speak openly about civil war.”
A bloody and cruel war between compatriots, divided according to their political views on the “Red” and “White,” unfolded in the vast expanses of the former Russian Empire. In its course, the Bolsheviks entered into a military confrontation with various anti-communist governments and their armies, as well as with foreign interventionists. In March of 1918, the first British military units entered Arkhangelsk, in May the uprising of the Czechoslovak corps began. In the South of Russia and in the Far East French, Greek, American, Romanian and Japanese armed units landed. The Entente countries financially and materially supported the white movement in Russia, the armies of A. V. Kolchak, A. I. Denikin, N. N. Yudenich, P. N. Wrangel and others.
The ultimate military victory of the Reds over the Whites was ensured by a combination of many factors, the most important among which was the support of the new regime by the social lower classes, who hoped for the practical realization of the slogans of “protecting the working people,” with which the Bolsheviks came to power. Analyzing this experience in the political report of the Central Committee at the 11th Congress of the RCP (b) in March of 1922, Lenin explained the success of the Bolsheviks as follows: “To a simple worker and peasant we gave our ideas about politics in the form of decrees. The result was the winning of the tremendous trust that we had and still have in the masses.” The Bolsheviks were sympathized with by a larger part of the main population of Russia — peasants, who received millions of hectares of former landlords’ lands at their disposal.
During the years of the civil war, Lenin continued to count on the “birth of a world federal Soviet republic,” despite the defeat of the revolutions in Germany and Hungary in 1918 and 1919 and the failure of attempts to “feel with bayonets whether the social revolution of the proletariat in Poland was ripe in 1920.” In the latter case, such an opportunity was provided to the Bolsheviks by the nationalist leadership of the restored Polish state, which could not resist the temptation to extend power with the help of military force to lands with a predominantly Ukrainian and Belarusian population, recreating Poland within the borders of 1772.
Сommunist parties, which emerged in many countries under the influence of revolutionary events in Russia became the main instrument for preparation for the world revolution. These parties, as sections, became part of the Third Communist International (Comintern), created on the initiative of Lenin, as an alternative to the Second Social Democratic International. The creation of the Comintern, the renaming of the RSDLP (b) into the Russian Communist Party (of Bolsheviks) marked a complete break with international social democracy, from which Bolshevism grew and which became one of the main ideological opponents of Russian Communists for many decades.
“The history of the labor movement,” Lenin wrote in his book “Left-Wing” Communism: An Infantile Disorder” “shows now that in all countries it will have to … survive the struggle of the emerging, stronger, going to the victory communism, primarily and mainly with its own (for each country) “Menshevism”.
The first congress of the Comintern was held in Moscow in early March of 1919. The leader of the Bolsheviks opened the Congress and delivered his theses and a report, once again criticizing bourgeois democracy and bourgeois parliamentarism as a machine for suppressing the working class by the bourgeoisie, declared the necessity of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the form of the power of the Soviets. In the spring of 1920, Lenin noted: “Communists must do their best to direct the labor movement and social development in general in the most direct and fastest way to the worldwide victory of Soviet power and the dictatorship of the proletariat,” and added: “our revolution is just the beginning… it will lead to a victorious end only when we light the whole world with the same revolution fire”. Unfulfilled expectations of a failed world revolution led Lenin himself and part of the Bolshevik leadership to thinking about the possibility and expediency of building socialism “in one separate country.”
Civil war and Bolsheviks’ policy turned into economic devastation. In 1921, a full-scale catastrophe struck Soviet Russia — the Volga region and other grain-producing regions of the country were seized by famine. At the suggestion of the world-famous writer Maxim Gorky and other public figures, in July of 1921 the “All-Russian Public Committee for the Relief of Starving” (Pomgol) was formed. But a month after its creation, the Bolsheviks saw in its activities a danger to themselves. Lenin demanded the immediate dissolution of Pomgol. The committee was forcibly dissolved and its members were prosecuted and expelled from the country. In return, the Soviet government created its own Central Commission for the Relief of Starving under the All-Russian Central Executive Committee (Pomgol Central Committee). On March 19, 1922, Lenin wrote a letter to the members of the Politburo, in which he set the task: “It is now … when people are being eaten in hungry areas and hundreds, if not thousands of corpses are lying on the roads, we can (and therefore must) carry out the seizure of church valuables with the most furious and merciless energy and without stopping to suppress any resistance. The next day, the Politburo adopted a resolution “On confiscation of church valuables”, the implementation of which led to cruel repressions against the Russian Orthodox Church.
Under the pressure of mass anti-Bolshevik uprisings of the peasants, the largest of which was the Tambov uprising led by Socialist Revolutionary A. S. Antonov, and the rebellion in Kronstadt in March of 1921, Lenin was forced to abandon the policy of Military Communism and replace it with a New Economic Policy (NEP), which provided for the permission of private business and the revival of commodity-monetary relations. Lenin spoke contradictorily about NEP, saying that NEP was “seriously and for a long time”, or, on the contrary, that the “retreat” was over. In any case, he considered this policy temporary: “We are retreating now…, but we are doing this in order to retreat, and then to run up and jump forward harder,” Lenin said at the plenum of the Moscow Council on November 20, 1922.
In his works of 1921-1923 Lenin returned to the analysis of Russian and world realities, in the grip of which the policy of the Bolsheviks was squeezed. While preserving his worldview and political views, he found it possible to recognize that the Bolsheviks sacrificed one of the key provisions of K. Marx’s theory on the economic and cultural conditionality of the transition from one socio-economic formation to another. Political practice of the Bolsheviks changed the “usual historical order,” in Russia it was decided to start with the creation of such prerequisites of civilization as the “expulsion” of landowners and capitalists. Lenin admitted that in October of 1917 the Bolsheviks ” got involved in a serious battle” counting on the imminent revolution in Germany. They did not foresee such “details of development” as the Brest Peace or NEP.
Now socialism in Russia was conceived by Lenin as a relatively distant goal. To achieve it, a “whole cultural revolution” and the creation of a “material base” were necessary, i. e., restoration and further development of the national economy. In this regard, Lenin came to the conclusion that electrification would “reborn Russia”. “Communism is Soviet power plus electrification of the whole country,” — this statement of Lenin became one of the most famous slogans of the Soviet era. On December 21, 1920, the Council of People’s Commissars adopted a plan of the electrification of the country (GOELRO plan), approved a few days later by the 8th Congress of Soviets. During the transition to NEP, Lenin ruled out a return to political pluralism, restoration of freedom of the press, and the rejection of terror. During a discussion of additions to the draft introductory law to the Criminal Code of the RSFSR with the People’s Commissar of Justice D. I. Kursky in May 1922, Lenin recommended “to expand the use of execution (with replacement by expulsion abroad). Even during the peace period Lenin believed that “the court should not eliminate terror; to promise it would be self-deception or deception, but to substantiate and legitimize it fundamentally, clearly, without falsehood and without embellishment.”
Contrary to his own appeal to the communist youth to master all the cultural wealth accumulated by mankind, the Bolshevik leader laid the foundation for the policy of intellectual and spiritual isolationism of Russia. It was Lenin who was the main proponent of the idea of expelling the dissident intelligentsia from Soviet Russia (“ruthlessly” and “without announcing motives”). Its symbol was the “philosophical ships”, on which in the second half of 1922 many prominent representatives of the intellectual and creative elite were expelled from the country. An exception was made for opposition-minded doctors: “for the purpose of practical use,” they were sent not abroad, but to remote areas of the country to fight mass epidemics and diseases.
The development of a new course in the early 1920s was accompanied by a fierce internal party struggle and sharp discussions. In March 1921, Lenin proposed to the 10th Congress of the RCP (b) to adopt a resolution “On Party Unity”. Justifying its necessity at a meeting of congress delegates, Lenin unequivocally stated: “If you want to introduce the opposition to the Central Committee for disintegration, then let me not allow this.” This resolution laid the institutional foundations for suppressing dissent within the Bolshevik party itself.
At the end of the civil war, the problem of managerial personnel acquired particular relevance. Now Lenin understood that “any laborer and any cook are not able to immediately enter into the management of the state.” Nevertheless, the Bolshevik leader believed that “we have a “miraculous remedy” at once, with one blow, to tenfold our state apparatus … ” It is a wonderful thing — to attract workers … to the day-to-day work of governing the state”.” The Soviets,” Lenin asserted, “are the new state apparatus.”
In fact, however, it was not the Soviets that became the core of the state system, but the monopoly of the ruling Communist Party. The most important decisions were made at meetings of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party, recreated in 1919. Discussions of such important issues usually ended with a special instruction: “to approve in the Soviet order.” Even during the life of the creator of the Soviet state, the formation of a special social stratum of managers began — the party nomenclature with the “privileges”, assigned to it, which should be kept secret so as not to irritate the working people. Attentive to the health of his associates, as evidenced by dozens of his notes, Lenin wrote to V. M. Molotov (Scriabin) on May 4, 1921: “it turns out (I’ve just found out it) that there is a rest house of the Council of People’s Commissars, a dacha, and it is under the management of the Administrative Department of the Council of People’s Commissars. I am afraid that this will cause criticism. Perhaps it would be more rational to call this rest home simply by its number …”. On May 17, 1921, he demanded that V. M. Molotov “to oblige PECO [Petrograd Committee] to arrange one rest home for the responsible employees of St. Petersburg in Estonia and Finland …” i. e., abroad, away from the eyes of the working people.
The power structure, which provided opportunities for better life support, attracted careerists and selfish people. “… The worst elements adjoin the ruling party already because this party is the ruling one,” the Bolshevik leader stated in December 1919. The danger posed by the new recruits who joined the party not for the sake of an idea, but for the sake of material benefits, required the publication of special circulars of the Central Committee, and then the party purges. But the results that Lenin hoped for were not achieved. “Our [administrative] apparatus turned out to be old,” he admitted in his speech at the plenum of the Moscow Council on November 20, 1922.
Even before the conquest of power, Lenin, being a consistent communist-internationalist, regularly opposed the ideology of “great power”. For the head of the Soviet state, the sympathies of the working people of the national borderlands were important. The Bolsheviks especially supported national languages and cultures, pursued a policy of “indigenous” personnel. It is known that it was Lenin who formed the principles of this policy, which developed in the 1920s. This happened in 1919, when the Central Committee of the RCP (b) adopted a resolution on Soviet power in Ukraine, which was based on Lenin’s theses. The members of the party were obliged by all means to promote the elimination of obstacles to free development of the Ukrainian language and culture”, to exercise the right “to learn and speak their native language in all Soviet institutions”, to take “measures that all Soviet institutions had a sufficient number of employees, who speak Ukrainian, and that in the future all employees could communicate in Ukrainian”.
At the end of the civil war the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was created. The idea of creating the USSR as a union of independent republics was born not so much as a result of the implementation of the theoretical views of the Bolshevik leader, but under the pressure of the prevailing circumstances. At the height of the civil war on June 1, 1919, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviets adopted a resolution “On the unification of Soviet Republics: Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus for the fight against world imperialism.” The military-political alliance implied the unification of military organizations and command, national economic councils, railway administration, finance, and labor commissariats. What was meant at that moment by “close association” can be seen from the draft directive of the Central Committee, written by Lenin for the meeting of the Politburo, where this question was discussed. The unification was supposed to be carried out under the “unified leadership of the Defense Council and other central institutions of the RSFSR.”
However, Lenin did not support the “plan of autonomization” (the entry of the Soviet republics into the RSFSR as autonomies) proposed in September 1922 by the commission headed by I. V. Stalin. “It is important,” he noted, “that we do not give food to the “independents”, do not destroy their independence, but create another floor, a federation of equal republics.” The reasons for changes in Lenin’s views lay, not least, in the foreign policy plane. During the period of the Soviet-Polish peace negotiations that followed the Polish-Soviet war of 1920, the People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs G. V. Chicherin repeatedly reminded Lenin and the members of the Politburo of the key importance of the topic of Ukraine’s independence, recognized by the Council of People’s Commissars in the Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty with the countries of the Quadruple Alliance. That is why the RSFSR and the Ukrainian SSR will act as signatories of the peace treaty with Poland as equal subjects of international law, which will largely predetermine the subsequent development of events.
On December 30, 1922, the First Congress of Soviets of the USSR approved the Declaration on the Formation of the USSR and the Union Treaty. For the first time in world history, a “state of nations” appeared, a union of formally independent republics with a formally legally secured right to self-determination right up to secession from the Union. This state can be considered an unplanned result of the October Revolution, which seemed to the Bolshevik leader the starting point of the world revolution, and not the starting point of state construction in a single country of victorious socialism.
Since May 1922, due to illness, Lenin lost the opportunity to actively participate in the leadership of the party and the state. His last public appearance took place on November 20, 1922 at the plenum of the Moscow City Council. In May of the following year, he left Moscow and finally moved to the Gorki estate near Moscow. The disease of the leader became a catalyst for the struggle for supremacy among the members of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the RCP (B.), who were part of his closest circle.
During his illness, violating the ban of the Politburo on work, from December 23, 1922 to March 2, 1923, Lenin dictated a number of messages addressed to the Central Committee. Among them were “Letter to the Congress,” “On imparting legislative functions to the State Planning Committee,” “On the issue of nationalities or “autonomization”, “Pages from the diary”, “On cooperation”,” On our revolution”,” How do we reorganize the Rabkrin, “Less Is More”. The most famous of them is the “Letter to the Congress,” which is often called Lenin’s “political testament”. In it, he made a proposal to increase the number of the Central Committee members at the expense of ordinary employees, gave unflattering characteristics to prominent party figures, including criticized the personal qualities of I. V. Stalin, elected by that time Secretary General of the Central Committee of the RCP (B.). Lenin’s recommendation to “the comrades to think about the way of moving Stalin from this place” was not implemented.
Lenin died after a long illness on January 21, 1924. His death only accelerated the formation of the cult, which began to be formed during the life of the leader. The memorialization of Lenin’s memory found its final expression in the construction of a mausoleum in the center of Moscow, on Red Square, where the remains of the leader of the October Revolution are buried. For some it is a great symbol of the eternal life of his ideas, for others — a monument of curse, for third — one of the evidences of the recent past of our country, which requires its comprehension.
A. K. Sorokin