What Makes a Revolution

In Lenin’s What Makes a Revolution,¬†he discussed the differences between the economic and socialist view of a revolutionary. His friend, an economist, discussed revolutionaries in terms of trade unions and mutual aid societies. However, a true revolutionary, in the eyes of Lenin, is far more than a union member. Unions, while they may be illegal, still have certain standards they must uphold. In addition, unions have goals such as improving wages or working conditions, but they do not seek to change to system entirely. Revolutionaries, seek to create radical change, and must operate in secrecy. Revolutionaries are not simply men who are angered by current conditions. Rather, they are men trained in the art, so to speak, of revolutions. They have practice in spreading the revolutionary message, while¬†keeping the organization itself as secretive as possible. Revolutionaries need the support of the working class, although revolutionary leaders are necessary to organize the outrage and make the revolution a success. Choosing specific leaders may seem undemocratic, although Lenin believed establishing a core group of leaders was needed to accomplish the goals of a revolution. A revolutionary may be involved in labor politics, but union organizers are not necessarily revolutionaries. Revolution, not factory work, must be a revolutionary’s full-time occupation. Training is necessary in establishing an effective revolution because outrage needs to be harnessed and exploited in order to affect change. A worker who protests the long working conditions will be appeased by a ten-hour workday. A true revolutionary, however, cannot be appeased by minor changes, and will continue to protest until the system has been dramatically changed.


2 thoughts on “What Makes a Revolution

  1. Lenin’s preoccupation with the leadership of the communist/socialist party seems particularly relevant in light of his later leadership in the communist party. Therefore, it made me take his words here with a grain of salt. Did he really believe what he was saying in general, or did he mean it only in reference to himself?

  2. I agree completely with what Lillian said in regards to Lenin and the overall message of his piece. However, I would argue with Lenin that unions can be just as radical as a revolution because workers are fighting for their rights, rights that their employees do not believe that they should have. One can argue that by standing up to their employers and demanding more from them, workers unions are just as radical, if not more radical than revolutions, for Lenin calls for revolutionary activity to be done in secrecy. Ultimately, by standing up to their employers and demanding more, I believe that workers unions are more radical than Lenin’s idea of a revolution because the workers unions are taking a public stand.

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