Theory of revolutionary action associated with the Bolshevik (Red) Party in Russia under the leadership of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1870-1924).
In order to move from capitalism to socialism and eventually to communism, a vanguard party is necessary to lead the working class against the capitalist state.
This party will hold opinions in advance of the class which it leads, and in order to succeed must be organized along military lines of loyalty and command, rather than in a democratic or open manner.
Neil Harding, Lenin’s Political Thought, 2 vols (London, 1977, 1981)
Bolshevism (from Bolshevik) is a revolutionary Marxist current of political thought and political regime associated with the formation of a rigidly centralized, cohesive and disciplined party of social revolution, focused on overthrowing the existing capitalist state system, seizing power and establishing the “dictatorship of the proletariat”.
It originated at the beginning of the 20th century in Russia and was associated with the activities of the Bolshevik faction within the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party – and first of all, the founder of the faction, Vladimir Lenin. Remaining on the soil of Marxism, Bolshevism at the same time absorbed elements of the ideology and practice of the revolutionaries of the second half of the 19th century (Sergey Nechaev, Pyotr Tkachev, Nikolay Chernyshevsky) and had many points of contact with such domestic left–wing radical movements as populism. The main theorist of Bolshevism was Lenin, besides him, the theoreticians of Bolshevism include Joseph Stalin, Nikolai Bukharin, Yevgeny Preobrazhensky and sometimes Rosa Luxemburg.
In October 1917, the Bolshevik faction organized an armed uprising against the Provisional Government, formed by other (including socialist) parties and seized power (see the October Revolution). The historical consequences of these actions both for Russia and for the world as a whole have opposite assessments.
Some researchers also attribute the activities of Joseph Stalin to the Bolshevik theory, who headed the All–Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) and at the same time possessed full state power in the Soviet Union. However, others (both Stalin’s contemporaries and later) do not confuse “Bolshevism” and “Stalinism” proper, considering them to be multidirectional (revolutionary and thermidorian) phenomena.
The expression “Bolshevism”, as well as “communism” later, has become established in Western historiography in the sense of a certain set of features of Soviet power in a certain political period. At present, the very name “Bolsheviks” is actively used by various groups of Marxist-Leninists and Trotskyists.
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