Vladimir Lenin and his Rise to Power



Eventually, empires and nations all collapse. The end can be

brought about by many causes. Whether through becoming too large for

their own good, being ruled by a series of out of touch men, falling

behind technologically, having too many enemies, succumbing to civil

war, or a combination: no country is safe. The Russia of 1910 was in a

tremendously horrible situation. She had all of these problems.

Russia would not have existed by 1920 were it not for Vladimir Ilich

Lenin, the only man capable of saving the failing nation.

Russia in 1910 was a very backwards country. Peasants who lived

in absolute poverty made up the vast majority of Russia?s population

(Haney 19). Russia?s version of the feudal system had ended a mere 49

years earlier, but in effect it meant that peasants now owned the

meager parcels of land upon which their survival rested. Their ruler,

Czar Nicholas II, ruled aloof of his disorganized nation. His

government of appointed officials and men in inherited positions did

not represent the people (The Tyranny of Stupidity 120). Even though

all of Europe had experienced the Industrial Revolution, Russia had

precious little machinery. To obtain more advanced machines, the

government traded grain to other countries in exchange for machinery,

even though it meant that more people would starve (Haney 17).

Compound this with the devastation and desperation brought on shortly

thereafter by the First World War, and there was no confidence left in

the government. Different political factions formed, and none got

along (U.S.S.R. 63). Liberal constitutionalists wanted to remove the

czar and form a republic; social revolutionists tried to promote a

peasant revolution; Marxists promoted a revolution among the

proletariat, or urban working class. The people were fed up with

Russia?s state of affairs and ready for change.

Change was presented in the form of Vladimir Lenin, a committed,

persuasive visionary with a grand plan. Lenin became hardened in his

quest at an early age when his older brother Aleksandr, a

revolutionary, was executed in 1887 for plotting to kill then-Czar

Alexander III. ?I?ll make them pay for this!? he said, ?I swear it!?

(Haney 28) By 1888, at the age of 18, he had read Das Kapital by Karl

Marx, a book about socialism and the evils of capitalism. A superb

speaker, he could hold audiences at rapt attention with his powerful

speeches (New Generation). People became convinced of his socialist

views. He formed his own political party, the Bolsheviks, a split off

of the earlier Marxists. Unlike other parties of his time, Lenin

limited membership to a small number of full-time revolutionaries

(Haney 41). This dedication and tight organization later proved both

useful and effective. From 1897 to 1917, he traveled all over Europe

writing propaganda, organizing strikes, and encouraging revolution

among the working class, especially in Russia (Lenin, V.I. 191). Lenin

knew what he wanted, knew how to get it, and was willing to wait.

During World War I, the time was right and Lenin was the man.

Czar Nicholas II remained totally focused on winning the war, and did

not hesitate before committing more men and supplies to the war effort

(Haney 65). But for an already starving country, every train that

brought supplies to the front could not also be bringing food to

peasants. With public sentiment and even the Czar?s own army against

him, Nicholas abdicated the throne in March of 1917 (69). A government

by soviets (councils) was instated, but did not last long. After that,

Alexander Kerensky seized power. In November, Lenin and his

Bolsheviks, with help from armed citizens, stopped the revolving door.

They took over St. Petersburg (then Petrograd) and later captured

Moscow, meeting little resiezce along the way (Jantzen 613). Lenin

took over the government and signed a treaty with Germany to take

Russia out of the war. Immediately thereafter, civil war broke out

between the Communists, called Reds, and the anti-Communists, called

Whites, who had help from Western nations (Johnson 43). This help from

outside Russia actually helped Lenin, as it drove public sentiment

against the Whites. Russian troops, scattered and dispirited, had

just been through World War I. Somehow, though, Lenin and his good

friend Leon Trotsky organized these troops into the Red Army and won

the war (Liversidge 59). It was now Lenin?s country.

Once he was fully in power, Lenin set up a true Communist

government. Russia became sixteen republics