Marxism is a political theory that was thought up by Karl Marx (1818 – 1883). He saw two different worlds, the rich and the poor, within this he saw the rich exploiting the poor. He said; ‘workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains. You have the world to gain. ‘ This means you can’t lose anything if you try and this is how he thought it would happen. Russia in 1846 was in a state of feudalism. This meant that the wealth belonged to the rich landowners.
Following this was Capitalism, where the middle class started taking power and the country began to industrialise. Socialism followed this, it was the stage where the workers had overthrown the government and split everything equally but there was still a government while ideas were evolved. Finally there was communism which was when the government, money, police and army had all gone and everything was fair. This, in Marx’s eyes was Utopia. I’m going to look at the links between this theory and the Bolshevik Revolution.
Lenin read this theory and did use this as a basis for the Bolshevik revolution but there were other factors that also led to the revolution; starvation, weak governments, poor decisions by Tsar Nicholas II, failures in WW1 and many other factors that contributed to the Bolshevik revolution. Tsar Nicholas was a bad leader and made a fatal decision in 1915 to take control of the Russian army after a quarter of their men had died in the first year; this meant any defeat he could be blamed for. He left his wife, a German Princess, in charge of Russia. She, with the help of Rasputin, a ‘healer’ whom she trusted after he’d saved her sons life.
Between them they managed to weaken and corrupt the Tsars government. By 1917 he realised that to return to Russia was suicide. He abdicated in 1917 handing over power to his brother, who, the next day rejected it leaving the country in that hands of a provisional government. He left them with a lot of problems that, fairly, the public wanted solutions for. The main issue was the war; Russia lost thousands, if not millions, of men in the war and wanted their army home before more were killed as it was a well known fact that, even though there was a higher tax, the soldiers were still very underequipped, sometimes down to one bullet a day.
Secondly they wanted food, because the railways were out of order already scare food, due to the famine, was left to rot in the stations. The last main issue was that the peasants wanted their own land, as they had been promised by the landowners. In comes Lenin. Lenin was the founder and leader of the Bolshevik party, who, as I have already said, was greatly influenced by Karl Marx’s work but he did not preach true Marxism, though. He modified it, claiming that small changes to Marxism were needed because of the ‘lingering Feudal nature of Russia’.
Lenin used this modified Marxism, called Marxist Leninism, to his own advantages. He came up with a slogan, ‘Peace, Bread, Land. ‘ He was prepared to give them what they wanted; they spread this message through out the country, through media. They were generally financed by the Germans as they knew Lenin wanted to take over and would take Russia out of the war, thus strengthening Germany’s chances of succession in the war. The Government weren’t promising to solve any of their problems so the people went to the only party opposing the government, the Bolsheviks, hence why they became so popular so quickly.
The Bolsheviks also had another secret weapon, the Red Guard. In September 1917 Kornilov led a revolt with a right wing section of the army. With no army the provisional government had to go to Lenin for help. They reluctantly agreed to allow Kerensky to use the Red Guard, as a result of this the Red Guard were armed, trained, experienced and treated as heroes, giving the Bolsheviks another tool for votes. By 1917 they had enough seats in the government to take power. On the night 6th October the Red Guard took over major areas in the city and took control. This was the revolution, but it was more of a military coup.
Lenin took Marx’s ideas of a workers revolution but used a smaller group of people. At this time 90% of the peasants still lived in rural areas so not all the workers were involved which was not what Marx envisioned. He also introduced an extra stage as he remained dictator after the revolution even though all the wealth and land had been shared. Overall the revolution was influenced by Marxism but Lenin changed the theory to fit the situation, removing them from the war and spreading the ideas of communism around the country but remaining as a dictator which went against the original ideas of the Marxist theory.
The Russian revolution could not have taken place if it was not for the dreadful living conditions, the shortage of food, the failures in WW1, dissatisfaction with Rasputin’s influence, the many shortfalls of Nicholas’ rule and many other factors. However, the ideas of Lenin and the Bolsheviks are undoubtedly linked to the earlier ideas of Karl Marx, with the four stages being very clear in the way Lenin took the Bolsheviks forward.