Karl Marx never led any political party. He was only a theoretician who tried to cram all of human history into the context of the rules of dialectical materialism. From his point of view, he interpreted the past and made predictions about the future, of which the greatest prediction was global revolution. He promised that the workers would destroy the capitalist system, after which a classless society would result.
In decades that passed since Marx's death in 1883, the revolution he'd announced so confidently never took place. In the capitalist countries of Europe, workers' living and working conditions improved, however slightly, abating the tension between the workers and the bourgeoisie. The revolution wasn't happening, and it wasn't going to happen.
In the early 1900s, another important name appeared in Russia. Vladimir Ilich Lenin was gradually rising to prominence in Russia's Social Democratic Party, which Marxists had founded. Lenin gave Marxism a whole new interpretation. In his view, the revolution couldn't happen spontaneously, because the European working class had been sedated by what the bourgeoisie had offered them and in any other countries was no working class worth mentioning. To this problem, Lenin offered a militant solution: Marx's predicted revolution wouldn't be carried out by the workers (the proletariat, in Marxist literature), but by surrogates—a Communist Party of professional revolutionaries with military training, acting on the workers' behalf. By using armed intervention and propaganda, "the Communist Party" would bring about a political revolution. From the moment their authoritarian regime seized power, it would establish what Lenin called the "dictatorship of the proletariat." It would clear away opposition, abolish private property, and ensure society's advancement towards a Communist order.
Above: After Marx's death, Lenin interpreted his ideology, trying to fill the lacunae and reconcile the contradictions Marx had left. In so doing, Lenin produced the formula for bringing Communism to power by force of arms. The photograph above, taken in 1897 in St. Petersburg, shows Lenin (middle) with other Communist militants. Below: A Russian edition of Marx's Das Kapital.
With Lenin's theory, Communism would become the ideology of a group of armed terrorists. After him, hundreds of Communist Parties (or workers' parties devoted to bloody revolution) sprouted throughout the world.
Lenin speaking to a crowd in Red Square, 1919.
What methods did the Communist Party intend for its revolution? Lenin answered this in both his writings and his actions: The Party would shed as much blood as possible. In 1906, eleven years before the Bolshevik Revolution, he wrote inProletary magazine:
The phenomenon in which we are interested is the armed struggle. It is conducted by individuals and by small groups. Some belong to revolutionary organizations, while others (the majority in certain parts of Russia) do not belong to any revolutionary organization. Armed struggle pursues two different aims, which must be strictly distinguished: in the first place, this struggle aims at assassinating individuals, chiefs and subordinates in the Army and police; in the second place, it aims at the confiscation of monetary funds both from the government and from private persons. The confiscated funds go partly into the treasury of the party, partly for the special purpose of arming and preparing for an uprising, and partly for the maintenance of persons engaged in the struggle we are describing. The big expropriations (such as the Caucasian, involving over 200,000 rubles, and the Moscow, involving 875,000 rubles) went in fact first and foremost to revolutionary parties — small expropriations go mostly, and sometimes entirely, to the maintenance of the "expropriators".14
Bolshevik revolutionaries posing with their weapons in St. Petersburg, November 1917
At the beginning of the 1900's, an important divergence of ideas occurred in the Russian Social Democratic Party. The group led by Lenin supported revolution by violence; while another group wanted to bring Marxism to Russia by more democratic means. The Leninists, though small in numbers, used various methods of pressure to gain the majority and became known as the Bolsheviks, the Russian word for majority. The other group was called the Mensheviks, which means minority.
The Bolsheviks began to organize following the way Lenin had outlined, through such methods as assassinations, confiscation of government money, and robbing official institutions. After many years of banishment, the Bolsheviks began their Russian Revolution of 1917. Actually, that year saw two separate revolutions. The first came in February; when Tsar Nicholas II was removed from the throne and imprisoned with his family, and a democratic government was established. But the Bolsheviks didn't want democracy; they were determined to establish a dictatorship of the proletariat.
In October 1917, their awaited revolution took place. Communist militants led by Lenin and Trotsky, his chief assistant, seized first the former capital, Petrograd ("Peter City," named for Peter the Great), and then Moscow. Battles in these two cities established the world's first Communist regime.
After the October Revolution, Russia was swept by a three-year civil war war between the so-called White Army, assembled by Tsarist generals, and the Red Army led by Trotsky. In July of 1918, Lenin ordered Bolshevik militants to execute Tsar Nicholas II and his family, including his three children. In the course of the civil war, the Bolsheviks did not hesitate to commit the bloodiest crimes, murders, and tortures against their opponents.
Above, Lenin with a group of Bolshevik militants in 1918. In telegraphs he sent to Communist militants in all parts of the country, Lenin gave constant orders for executions, to be carried out in a way as to spread fear among the people.
Both the Red Army and the Cheka, a secret police organization founded by Lenin, inflicted terror on all parts of society opposed to the revolution. A book entitledThe Black Book of Communism written by a group of scholars andpublished by the Harvard University Press, describing Communist atrocities throughout the world, has this to say about Bolshevik terror:
The Bolsheviks had decided to eliminate, by legal and physical means, any challenge or resistance, even if passive, to their absolute power. This strategy applied not only to groups with opposing political views, but also to such social groups as the nobility, the middle class, the intelligentsia, and the clergy, as well as professional groups such as military officers and the police. Sometimes the Bolsheviks subjected these people to genocide. The policy of "de-Cossackization" begun in 1920 corresponds largely to our definition of genocide: a population group firmly established in a particular territory, the Cossacks as such were exterminated, the men shot, the women, children and the elderly deported, and the villages razed or handed over to new, non-Cossack occupants. Lenin commpared the Cossacks to the Vendée during the French Revolution and gladly subjected them to a program of what Gracchus Babeuf, the "inventor" of modern Communism, characterized in 1795 as "populicide."15
In every city they entered, the Bolsheviks killed those not open to their ideology and committed acts of excessive savagery intended to instill fear. The Black Book of Communism describes the Bolshevik atrocities in Crimea:
Similar acts of violence occurred in most of the cities of the Crimea occupied by the Bolsheviks, including Sevastopol, Yalta, Alushta, and Simferopol. Similar atrocities are recorded from April and May 1918 in the big Cossack cities then in revolt. The extremely precise file of the Denikin commission record "corpses with hands cut off, broken bones, heads ripped off, broken jaws, and genital removed."16
Ignorant militants of Communism
The Bolsheviks, ignorant to the masses and an intensive propaganda, simple slogans shouted into the ranks as soon as possible, adding that many people. Uneducated and poor people, promising them peace of bread and easily inanabiliyorlardi communist lies. Spurred by Darwinism, atheism, however, were reinforced by communist propaganda. In the picture, as a result of such propaganda is communist in a few days, a group of Russian workers and peasants is located..
The Russian historian and socialist S.P. Melgunov, in his book The Red Terror in Russia, says that Sevastopol was turned into a "city of the hanged" because of the extermination campaign against surviving witnesses:
From Nakhimovksky, all one could see was the hanging bodies of officers, soldiers, and civilians arrested in the streets. The town was dead, and the only people left alive were hiding in lofts or basements. All the walls, shop fronts, and telegraph poles were covered with posters calling for "Death to the traitors." They were hanging people for fun.17The Bolsheviks sorted the people they wanted to eliminate into certain categories. For example, the bourgeoisie (or the "Mensheviks," who understood socialism differently from the Bolsheviks) were the new regime's chief enemies. The "kulak," the most numerous category, was specially targeted. In Russian, a kulak is the name given to a rich landowner. During the revolution and the civil war, Lenin issued hundreds of orders that rained pitiless terror on the kulaks. For example, in one telegram to the Central Executive Committee of Penza soviet, he said:
A propaganda poster showing Trotsky as a war hero.
Comrades! The kulak uprising in your five districts must be crushed without pity. The interests of the whole revolution demand such actions, for the final struggle with the kulaks has now begun. You must make an example of these people. Hang (I mean hang publicly, so that people see it) at least 100 kulaks, rich bastards, and known blood-suckers. Publish their names. Seize all their grain…Do all this so that for miles around people see it all, understand it, tremble…Reply saying you have received and carried out these instructions. Yours, Lenin.18
Lenin gave many orders like this one. Bolshevik militants gladly carried out his instructions, even inventing their own styles of savagery. The famous author Maxim Gorky witnessed some of these methods and later wrote:
In Tambov province Communists were nailed with railway spikes by their left hand and left foot to trees a metre above the soil, and they watched the torments of these deliberately oddly-crucified people. They would open a prisoner's belly, take out the small intestine and nailing it to a tree or telegraph pole they drove the man around the tree with blows, watching the intestine unwind through the wound. Stripping a captured officer naked, they tore strips of skin from his shoulders in the form of shoulder straps...19
The Bolsheviks undertook to exterminate those who did not want to adopt Communism. Tens of thousands were executed without a trial. Many opponents of the regime were sent to concentration camps, collectively called the "Gulag," where prisoners were worked almost to death under very harsh conditions. Many never left these camps alive. In the period from 1918 to 1922, they murdered hundreds of thousands of workers and villagers who had opposed the regime.
The Harvard historian Richard Pipes investigated secret Soviet archives to research his book, The Unknown Lenin. Revealing that Lenin gave countless orders to have people tortured and murdered, he ends his book with this evaluation:
With the evidence currently available it becomes difficult to deny that Lenin was, not an idealist, but a mass murderer, a man who believed that the best way to solve problems—no matter whether real or imaginary—was to kill off the people who caused them. It is he who originated the practice of political and social extermination that in the twentieth century would claim tens of millions of lives.20
Russian soldiers supporting an uprising instigated by Trotsky against the Tsar in St. Petersburg, 1917.