Chapter 2 – Marxism-Leninism Communist Roots of the Cold War to the Eve of the Second World War—1848 to 1939

core criteria of Communist faith and society that in the Communist catechism alone deserved titles like “democratic,” “peaceful,” or “progressive.” Non-Communist nations were automatically defined as enemies, even when, they were representative republics or constitutional monarchies whose political and economic powers were increasingly limited by the laws and institutions developing in modern democracies. These included parliaments, socialist party participation, free press, labor unions, the right to strike, religious tolerance and other institutional legal checks and balances. Lenin simply defined “capitalism” as equal to “imperialism” and all of the Great War’s belligerents as “imperialists.” He viewed their wars against each other as a welcome development that would prepare the ground for inevitable Communist revolutions.
Lenin, Stolypin, and the Bolshevik Path to Power. Readers unfamiliar with the “Great Lenin,” as he was revered in the Soviet Union and the Kremlin’s broader “Socialist Camp,” must recognize that in Soviet history he was, and for some in post-Soviet Russia still remains, an object of veneration. Even at this writing, his body is preserved in a glass coffin displayed publicly in a special mausoleum built in 1924 on Moscow’s Red Square—a holy shrine to a mummified pagan god. Other Communist “gods” like Mao, Kim Il Sung, and Ho Chi Minh have experienced similar veneration, even as their dogmas and cult status continue to defy morality and logic.
Lenin was born in 1870 as Vladimir Ilyich Ulianov in the city of Simbirsk in Russia’s Volga region. He was the son of a school inspector and the brother of a future anarchist, whose execution by the Czar’s authorities contributed to Lenin’s radicalization. In his quest for power, Lenin utilized Marx’s militant and elitist doctrines to lead increasingly revolutionary organizations. His beliefs split Russia’s nascent Social Democratic Party into a moderate group of “Mensheviks” and his own small radical faction of hard-line “Bolsheviks.”
Lenin Undercuts Stolypin’s Democratic Reforms—1905 to 1911. In contrast with democratic-minded Russian socialists, Lenin’s Bolsheviks insisted on Marxist (by now Marxist-Leninist) grounds on the creation of a violent vanguard to lead a revolution to overthrow the Russian Czar, end the monarchical system, and institute a Communist regime. He consistently undercut or directly opposed reformist efforts from either socialists or widely respected reformist conservatives like Count Peter Stolypin and other political leaders in Moscow aware of the benefits of the substantial social and political reforms undertaken in Germany in the 1880s and 1890s. In 1905, Stolypin responded to street demonstrations and strikes by persuading the Czar to permit reforms, including the establishment of a Russian consultative assembly (“Duma”) with a measure of emerging legislative powers and rights. When radical leftist opponents declared these reforms insufficient and attempted an insurrection in December 1905, the Czar crushed the demonstrators and ordered the reforms to be withdrawn.
In June 1906, Stolypin became Prime Minister and reinvigorated Russia’s reform process with a series of new steps that included the new Duma, land reform, and broader electoral rights and representation. From 1907 to 1911 the reforms undertaken by Stolypin with the Duma’s cooperation included the establishment of social insurance, land banks, and substantial economic expansion and industrialization. Stolypin’s resignation and assassination by a radical revolutionary in September 1911 halted Russia’s reform momentum and provoked increased public division and agitation that further weakened the monarchy. As a party in a position of growing power, Lenin’s Bolsheviks might have helped significantly to set Russia on the path of true reform and a constitutional monarchy like the ones developing in Western Europe. Yet Lenin continued to agitate against any non-violent democratic reform. At this point, the Czar’s government exiled Lenin and other Russian radicals, including Lenin’s wife, to Geneva, Switzerland.
The First World War—1914 to 1917. The First World War began in August, 1914, during Lenin’s exile, and lasted four years on the Western Front and three years in the East in Russia. Key belligerents were the “Entente” Powers including Great Britain, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Holland, Russia, and other smaller powers (and beginning in 1917) the United States. The “Central” Powers included Imperial Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Turkey, and Bulgaria. For Russia, the war quickly turned disastrous at the Battle of Tannenberg in August 1914 that enabled massive German armies to advance across Eastern Europe and far into western Russia. By early 1917, the German invaders were straining Russia’s military power and political will to a breaking point.
Russia’s “March Revolution” that Removed the Czar—March 1917. As the war unfolded with Lenin in exile, his Bolsheviks in Russia remained leaderless. Then a peaceful Russian revolution took place in Russia on March 7, 1917 drawing on the reformist principles of the Stolypin era. A broad coalition of parties formed a new Russian Provisional Government led by Alexander Kerensky, a distinguished human rights lawyer and the
[Book pg. 28]