The Importance of Organization

Vladimir Lenin was born into a wealthy upper-middle class family in 1870. His parents were monarchists who supported the tsarist regime. When Lenin was 16, his brother was executed for joining a revolutionary group dedicated to assassinating Tsar Alexander III. Lenin was influenced by his brother’s left wing ideas and became involved in a socialist revolutionary cell at Kazan University. Lenin was one of the first to translate Marx and Engels’ Communist Manifesto into Russian and became interested in Marxism. The influence of Marx and Engels is apparent in Lenin’s What is to be Done?. In this piece, Lenin goes even further than Marx did by describing the type of organization necessary to succeed in a revolution. He writes that a successful revolutionary organization will have dedicated leaders and will be experienced professional revolutionaries. These people must be steadfast and dedicated to their cause and well organized to make a change in Russia1.

Lenin wrote this piece in 1902, fifteen years before he would be instrumental in the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. He was able to implement many of his organizational ideas and strengthen the revolutionary party in a way that made them able to have a successful takeover of the Russian government in 1917. Once Lenin was in power he implemented many of the ideas discussed by Marx and Engels and strengthened communism in Russia.

The revolution in Russia took place in the middle of World War I, did that contribute to the success of Lenin’s ideologies? Was he able to take advantage of the turmoil throughout Europe to strengthen his political position? Why didn’t many other countries have similar working class revolutions?

  1. Lenin, Vladimir. What is to be Done?. 1902 []

One thought on “The Importance of Organization

  1. I believe that Lenin was inspired by other European socialist revolutions that had already taken place while writing this piece. For example, Alfred Dreyfus, a French Jewish captain, was accused of sharing secrets with German forces. He was then charged with treason and sentenced to Devil’s Island for confinement in 1894. It was eventually discovered that there was no real evidence against him. Rather than releasing him from confinement at once, the government claimed that he had to remain there due to his religious affiliation. French socialists fought against this inhumane treatment and helped Dreyfus to be removed from Devil’s Island in 1906. This event marks one example of how socialists were focused on improving civilian treatment at the end of the nineteenth century. It is quite possible that Lenin was inspired by the result of the Dreyfus Affair while writing his piece.

    It is also interesting to note that Lenin wrote this piece after Alexander III took over Russia and removed many reforms that had been put into place beginning during the 1860s. These reforms had granted civilians many more civil writes. Social unrest was clearly very high by the time Lenin wrote “What is to be Done?” because of Alexander III’s decisions.

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