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Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin)
Born in 1870 to a minor aristocratic family of Jewish ancestry.
In 1887 his brother was executed for his part in an attempted assassination of Alexander III,
thus intensifying Lenin's revolutionary attitude.
Since the age of 17, Lenin had been on the tsarist authorities' list of 'dangerous persons'.
By the age of 20, his voracious readings of Marx's writings had turned him into a committed
Marxist for whom revolution was a way of life.
In 1897 he was exiled to Siberia, due to his dedication to the cause of revolution in Russia.
This was when he took the name Lenin (which was only one of the 160 aliases he used as a
In 1900 he joined the SD party and set out turning them into a genuinely revolutionary party.
With an SD colleague, Julius Martov, he founded a party newspaper, Iskra (the Spark), which
he used as the chief means of putting his case to the party members.
He became worried that the SDs were attempting to improve conditions of the workers
(economism), instead of putting their true goal, the transformation of the workers into a
revolutionary force for the overthrow of capitalism. Lenin wanted conditions to get worse, not
better. In that way the bitterness of the industrial proletariat would increase, and so bring the
Although Lenin despised the moderate, reformist intelligentsia, he argued, nonetheless, that it
was only from that intellectual class that the leaders of revolution in Russia could be drawn.
He set down his ideas on this theme in his pamphlet 'What is to be Done?', published in
In it, he said that 'Our task as Social Democrats is to oppose this blind process, to divert the
labour movement from the unconscious tendency of trade unionism to march under the protective
wing of the bourgeoisie and to bring it under the influence of Social Democracy instead.
Lenin insisted that the way forward could be effectively organized only by a dedicated group of
Historian Orlando Figes once said about Lenin:
'There was no 'private Lenin' behind the public mask. He gave all of himself to politics. He
rarely showed emotion, he had few intimates, and everything he ever said or wrote was
intended only for the revolutionary cause. This was not a man but a political machine.'
In 1903 he led the Bolshevik breakaway movement in the SD. The Bolsheviks and Mensheviks
disagreed the Mensheviks (under Plekhanov) thought that:
Russia wasn't ready for proletarian revolution the bourgeois had to occur first.
The party should be a mass organization with membership open to all revolutionaries.
Decisions should be made through open, democratic discussion within the party
decisions arrived at by members.
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The Bolsheviks thought that:
Bourgeois and proletarian stages could be telescoped into one revolution.
The party should be a tightknit, exclusive organisation of professional revolutionaries.
Authority should be exercised by the Central Committee of the party this is described as
In December 1905 he returned to Russia but played no part in the Revolution.
Between 190617 he spent most of his time exiled abroad.…read more