The BOLSHEVIKS, originally also BOLSHEVISTS or BOLSHEVIKI (Russian
: большевики, большевик (singular); IPA: ; derived
from большинство bol'shinstvo, "majority", literally
meaning "one of the majority") were a faction of the Marxist Russian
Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) which split apart from the
Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903. The RSDLP
was a revolutionary socialist political party formed in 1898 in Minsk
In the Second Party Congress vote, the
Bolsheviks won on the majority
of important issues, hence their name. They ultimately became the
Communist Party of the Soviet Union . The
Bolsheviks or Reds came to
The Bolsheviks, founded by Vladimir Lenin and Alexander Bogdanov , were by 1905 a major organization consisting primarily of workers under a democratic internal hierarchy governed by the principle of democratic centralism , who considered themselves the leaders of the revolutionary working class of Russia. Their beliefs and practices were often referred to as BOLSHEVISM.
* 1 History of the split
* 1.1 Origins of the name * 1.2 Composition of the party * 1.3 Beginning of the 1905 Revolution (1903–1905) * 1.4 The Mensheviks ("The minority") (1906–1907) * 1.5 Split between Lenin and Bogdanov (1908–10) * 1.6 Final attempt at party unity (1910) * 1.7 Forming a separate party (1912)
* 2 Derogatory usage of "Bolshevik"
* 2.1 Non-Russian/Soviet groups having used the name "Bolshevik"
* 3 See also * 4 Notes
* 5 References
* 5.1 Sources
* 6 External links
HISTORY OF THE SPLIT
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In the 2nd Congress of the
Russian Social Democratic Labour Party
A main source of the factions could be directly attributed to Lenin's steadfast opinion and unwillingness to "bear opinions which were contrary to his own". It was obvious at early stages in Lenin's revolutionary practices that he would not be willing to concede on any party policy that conflicted with his own predetermined ideas. It was the loyalty that he had to his own self-envisioned utopia that caused the party split. He was seen even by fellow party members as being so narrow minded that he believed that there were only two types of people: "Friend and enemy—those who followed him, and all the rest." Leon Trotsky , one of Lenin's fellow revolutionaries (though they had differing views as to how the revolution and party should be handled), compared Lenin in 1904 to the French revolutionary Robespierre . Lenin's view of politics as verbal and ideological warfare and his inability to accept criticism even if it came from his own dedicated followers was the reason behind this accusation.
The root of the split was a book titled
What is to be Done?
Other than the debate between Lenin and Julius Martov; Lenin felt
membership should require support of the Party program, financial
contributions, and finally involvement in a Party organization whereas
Martov didn't see the need for joining Party organizations, internal
unrest also rose over the structure that was best suited for Soviet
power. As discussed in
What is to be Done?
The base of active and experienced members would be the recruiting ground for this professional core. Sympathizers would be left outside and the party would be organised based on the concept of democratic centralism . Martov, until then a close friend of Lenin, agreed with him that the core of the party should consist of professional revolutionaries, but argued that party membership should be open to sympathizers, revolutionary workers and other fellow travelers .
The two had disagreed on the issue as early as March–May 1903, but
it was not until the Congress that their differences became
irreconcilable and split the party. At first the disagreement
appeared to be minor and inspired by personal conflicts. For example,
Lenin's insistence on dropping less active editorial board members
ORIGINS OF THE NAME
The two factions were originally known as "hard" (Lenin's supporters) and "soft" (Martov's supporters). Soon, however, the terminology changed to "Bolsheviks" and "Mensheviks", from the Russian "bolshinstvo" (majority) and "menshinstvo" (minority). On the other hand, Martov's supporters won the vote concerning the question of party membership. Neither Lenin nor Martov had a firm majority throughout the Congress as delegates left or switched sides. At the end, the Congress was evenly split between the two factions.
From 1907 on, English language articles sometimes used the term "Maximalist" for "Bolshevik" and "Minimalist" for "Menshevik", which proved confusing since there was also a "Maximalist" faction within the Russian Socialist-Revolutionary Party in 1904–06 (which after 1906 formed a separate Union of Socialists-Revolutionaries Maximalists ) and then again after 1917.
COMPOSITION OF THE PARTY
The average party member was very young. In 1907, 22% of Bolsheviks were under 20, 37% were 20–24 and 16% were 25–29. By 1905, 62% of the members were industrial workers (3% of the population in 1897 ). 22% of Bolsheviks were gentry (1.7% of the total population), 38% were uprooted peasants, compared with 19% and 26% for the Mensheviks . In 1907, 78.3% of the Bolsheviks were Russian and 10% were Jewish (34% and 20% for the Mensheviks). Total membership was 8,400 in 1905, 13,000 in 1906 and 46,100 by 1907 (8,400, 18,000, 38,200 respectively for the Mensheviks). By 1910, both factions together had fewer than 10,000 members.
BEGINNING OF THE 1905 REVOLUTION (1903–1905)
The two factions were in a state of flux in 1903–04 with many members changing sides. The founder of Russian Marxism, Georgy Plekhanov , who was at first allied with Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks, parted ways with them by 1904. Leon Trotsky at first supported the Mensheviks, but left them in September 1904 over their insistence on an alliance with Russian liberals and their opposition to a reconciliation with Lenin and the Bolsheviks. He remained a self-described "non-factional social democrat" until August 1917 when he joined Lenin and the Bolsheviks as their positions assembled and he came to believe that Lenin was right on the issue of the party.
All but one member of the Central Committee were arrested in Moscow in early 1905. The remaining member, with the power of appointing a new one, was won over by the Bolsheviks.
The lines between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks hardened in April 1905 when the Bolsheviks held a Bolsheviks-only meeting in London, which they called the Third Party Congress. The Mensheviks organised a rival conference and the split was thus formalised.
Bolsheviks played a relatively minor role in the 1905 Revolution
, and were a minority in the
Saint Petersburg Soviet of Workers'
Deputies led by Trotsky. The less significant
THE MENSHEVIKS ("THE MINORITY") (1906–1907)
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Russian Revolution of 1905 progressed, Bolsheviks, Mensheviks
and smaller non-Russian social democratic parties operating within the
However, all factions retained their respective factional structure and the Bolsheviks formed the Bolshevik Centre , the de facto governing body of the Bolshevik faction within the RSDLP. At the Fifth Congress held in London in May 1907, the Bolsheviks were in the majority, but the two factions continued functioning mostly independently of each other.
SPLIT BETWEEN LENIN AND BOGDANOV (1908–10)
Tensions had existed between Lenin and Bogdanov as early as 1904:
Lenin had fallen out with
Nikolai Valentinov , after the latter had
introduced him to
Ernst Mach 's Empiriocriticism, a viewpoint that
Bogdanov had been exploring and developing as Empiriomonism. Having
worked as co-editor with Plekhanov on Zayra he had come to agree with
the latter's rejection of Bogdanov's Empiriomonism. With the defeat
of the revolution in mid-1907 and the adoption of a new, highly
restrictive election law, the
Bolsheviks began debating whether to
boycott the new parliament known as the
Third Duma . Lenin, Grigory
Lev Kamenev and others argued for participating in the Duma
Alexander Bogdanov ,
With most Bolshevik leaders either supporting Bogdanov or undecided
by mid-1908 when the differences became irreconcilable, Lenin
concentrated on undermining Bogdanov's reputation as a philosopher. In
1909, he published a scathing book of criticism entitled Materialism
and Empirio-criticism (1909), assaulting Bogdanov's position and
accusing him of philosophical idealism. In June 1909, Bogdanov
proposed the formation of Party Schools as "Proletarian Universities"
at a Bolshevik mini-conference in
FINAL ATTEMPT AT PARTY UNITY (1910)
With both Bolsheviks and Mensheviks weakened by splits within their ranks and by Tsarist repression, they were tempted to try to re-unite the party. In January 1910, Leninists, recallists and various Menshevik factions held a meeting of the party's Central Committee in Paris. Kamenev and Zinoviev were dubious about the idea, but were willing to give it a try under pressure from "conciliator" Bolsheviks like Victor Nogin .
One of the more underlying reasons that aided in preventing any reunification of the party was the Russian police. The police were able to infiltrate both parties' inner circles by sending in spies who then reported on the opposing party's intentions and hostilities. This allowed the tensions to remain high between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. In turn it prevented them from uniting under common ground which could have possibly sped up the entire revolution.
Lenin was firmly opposed to any re-unification, but was outvoted
within the Bolshevik leadership. The meeting reached a tentative
agreement and one of its provisions made Trotsky's
FORMING A SEPARATE PARTY (1912)
The factions permanently broke off relations in January 1912 after the Bolsheviks organised a Bolsheviks-only Prague Party Conference and formally expelled Mensheviks and recallists from the party. As a result, they ceased to be a faction in the RSDLP and instead declared themselves an independent party, called RUSSIAN SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC LABOUR PARTY (BOLSHEVIKS) – or RSDLP(b). Unofficially the Party has been referred to as the "Bolshevik Party". Throughout the century, the Party adopted a number of different names. In 1918, RSDLP(b) became (ALL-)RUSSIAN COMMUNIST PARTY (BOLSHEVIKS) and remained so until 1925. From 1925–52 the name was ALL-UNION COMMUNIST PARTY (BOLSHEVIKS), and from 1952–1991 COMMUNIST PARTY OF THE SOVIET UNION .
As the party split became permanent and politically recognized in 1912 due to an all Bolshevik meeting of Congress further divisions became evident. One of the most notable differences was how each faction decided to fund its revolution. The Mensheviks decided to fund their revolution through membership dues while Lenin often resorted to much more drastic measures since he required a higher budget. One of the common methods the Bolsheviks used was committing bank robberies, one of which in 1907 resulted in the party gaining over 250,000 rubles which is the equivalent of about $125,000. Bolsheviks were in constant need of money because Lenin practiced his beliefs exercised in his writings that revolutions must be led by individuals who devote their entire life to the cause. To compensate he awarded them with salaries for their sacrifice and dedication. This measure was taken to help ensure that the revolutionists stayed focused on their duties and motivated them to perform their jobs. Lenin also used the party money to print and copy pamphlets which were distributed in cities and at political rallies in attempts to expand their operations. This was an obvious difference between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks party beliefs. Both factions also managed to gain funds simply by receiving donations from wealthy supporters.
Further differences in party agendas became evident as the beginning
of World War I loomed near. Stalin was especially eager for the start
of the war, hoping that it would turn into a war between classes or
essentially a Russian Civil War. This desire for war was fueled by
Lenin's vision that the workers and peasants would resist joining the
war effort, and therefore be more compelled to join the socialist
movement. Through the increase in support
Although the Bolshevik leadership decided to form a separate party,
convincing pro-Bolshevik workers within
One final difference between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks was simply how ferocious and tenacious the party was willing to be in order to achieve its goals. Lenin was open minded to retreating on political ideas if he saw the guarantee of long term gains benefiting the party. This practice was commonly seen trying to recruit peasants and uneducated workers by promising them how glorious life would be after the revolution. His approach was "land seizure for the peasants and national self-determination for the minorities – as nothing more than temporary concessions."
In 1918, at Lenin's suggestion, the party renamed itself the Russian
DEROGATORY USAGE OF "BOLSHEVIK"
"Down with Bolshevism. Bolshevism brings war and destruction, hunger and death", anti-Bolshevik propaganda, Germany, 1919.
"Bolo" was a derogatory expression for
Bolsheviks used by British
service personnel in the
North Russian Expeditionary Force which
intervened against the
NON-RUSSIAN/SOVIET GROUPS HAVING USED THE NAME "BOLSHEVIK"
* Democratic centralism * Left-wing uprisings against the Bolsheviks * Leninism * October Revolution * Old Bolshevik * Soviet Revolutionary Communists (Bolsheviks) * Vladimir Lenin * Marxism–Leninism * Trotskyism
* ^ Both a synonym to "Bolshevik" and an adherent of Bolshevik
* ^ Derived from меньшинство men'shinstvo, "minority",
which comes from меньше men'she, "less". The split occurred at
the Second Party Congress in 1903.
* ^ After the split, the Bolshevik party was designated as RSDLP(b)
(Russian: РСДРП(б)), where "b" stands for "Bolsheviks". Shortly
after coming to power in November 1917 the party changed its name to
* ^ "Большевистский", Ushakov\'s Explanatory
Dictionary of Russian Language .
* ^ "Bolshevist", Dictionary,
* ^ "Bolsheviki Seize State Buildings, Defying Kerensky". The New
York Times . 7 November 1917. Retrieved 22 December 2013.
* ^ Suny, Ronald Grigor (1998). The Soviet Experiment. London:
Oxford University Press. p. 57. ISBN 978-0-19-508105-3 .
* ^ Shub 1976 , p. 81.
* ^ Service, Robert (2010). Lenin : a biography (paperback)format=
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* ^ Shub 1976 , p. 76.
* ^ A B Pipes 1995 , p. 104.
* ^ A B Pipes 1995 , p. 106.
* ^ A B Formation of the Russian social-democratic labor party.
Appearance of the bolshevik & the menshevik groups within the party.
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* ^ Tucker 1975 .
* ^ Tucker 1975 , p. xxxviii.
* ^ Getzler, Israel (2003) , Martov: A Political Biography of a
Russian Social Democrat, Cambridge University Press, p. 78, ISBN
* ^ Wilson, Edmund (1977). To the Finland Station. London: Fontana.
p. 402. ISBN 0-00-632420-7 .
* ^ Antonelli, Étienne (1920), Bolshevik Russia, Charles A.
Carroll trans, AA Knopf, p. 59, the term 'Maximalist' rather widely
used as a translation for 'Bolshevik' is historically false. 307 pp.
* ^ Ascher, Abraham, The Revolution of 1905, p. 4 .
* ^ Cliff, Tony, Lenin and the Revolutionary Party, p. 37 .
* ^ Pipes, Richard, The Russian Revolution, pp. 364–5 .
* ^ McDaniel, Tim, Autocracy, capitalism, and revolution in Russia,
p. 246 .
* ^ Biggart, John (1989). Alexander Bogdanov, left-Bolshevism and
the Proletkult 1904–1932. Norwich: University of East Angla. ASIN
* ^ Wolfe, Bertram D. (1966). Three Who Made a Revolution. London:
Penguin. p. 410. ISBN 0-14-020783-X .
* ^ Materialism & Empiriocriticism, Moscow: Zveno Publishers, May
* ^ Woods, Alan (1999), "Part Three: The Period of Reaction",
Bolshevism: The Road to Revolution, Wellred, ISBN 1-900007-05-3 .
* ^ Daniels, Robert V, ed. (1993), A Documentary History of