In political science, Marxism–Leninism is the ideology of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), of the Communist International, and of Stalinist political parties. The purpose of Marxism–Leninism is the revolutionary development of a bourgeois state into a socialist state, realised through the leadership of a party vanguard, composed of professional revolutionaries from the working class. The socialist state is realised in the dictatorship of the proletariat, and is governed by way of democratic centralism, which Lenin described as "diversity in discussion, unity in action".
Politically, Marxism–Leninism establishes the communist party as the primary force to organise society into a socialist state, which is one stage towards the socio-economic development of a communist state — an egalitarian society without stratified social classes, which features common ownership of the means of production, concentrated development of industry, science, and technology for the continual growth of the productive forces of the people; and public control of the social institutions, the land, and the natural resources of the country.
Joseph Stalin suggested the term and applied it to narrowly define the theories and political praxis proposed by Marx and Lenin; which definition Stalin then used to establish ideologic orthodoxy among Communists. In the USSR, the term Marxism–Leninism became common, political usage after publication of The History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks) (1938), by Stalin, which became the official textbook on the subject.
Critical of the Stalinist model of communism in the USSR, the American Marxist Raya Dunayevskaya and the Italian Marxist Amadeo Bordiga criticised Marxism–Leninism as a type of state capitalism. That Karl Marx had identified state ownership of the means of production as a form of state capitalism — except under certain socio-economic conditions, which usually do not exist in Marxist–Leninist states. That the Marxist dictatorship of the proletariat is a form of democratic state; therefore, the single-party-rule of a vanguard party is undemocratic. That Marxism–Leninism is neither Marxism nor Leninism, nor a philosophic synthesis, but an artificial term that Stalin used to control ideological orthodoxy; what is Communism and what is not Communism.
|Part of the Politics series on|
Within five years of Lenin's death in 1924, Joseph Stalin was the government of the USSR; to justify his régime, Stalin had written the book Concerning Questions of Leninism (1926), his compilation of Marx and Lenin, which presented Marxism–Leninism as a separate ideology (Stalinism) which he then established as the official state ideology of the Soviet Union. In governing the Soviet Union, Stalin abided and flouted the ideological principles of Lenin and Marx as expediencies to realise plans.
Ideologically, the Trotskyite Communists believe that Stalinism contradicts authentic Marxism and Leninism, and identified their ideology as Bolshevik–Leninism, to differenciate their variety of communism from Stalin's ideology of Marxism–Leninism. Moreover, in Marxist political discourse, the term Marxism–Leninism has two usages: (i) Praise of Stalin by Stalinists (who believe Stalin successfully developed Lenin's legacy) and (ii) Criticism of Stalin by Stalinists (who repudiate Stalin's repressions), such as Nikita Khrushchev and his CPSU cohort.
Consequent to the Sino-Soviet split in 1956, the communist party of each country, the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union, claimed to be the sole, ideological heir-and-successor to Marxism–Leninism — and thus ideological leader of world communism. In China, the official PRC history represents Mao Zedong's practical application and adaptation of Marxism–Leninism to Chinese conditions as a fundamental up-dating of Leninism, which is applicable worldwide — consequently, Maoism (the Thought of Mao Zedong) was the official state ideology of the People's Republic of China.
In the Chinese sphere of geopolitical influence, the Sino–Albanian split (1972–1978) — caused by Albanian Communist rejection of the PRC's Realpolitik of Sino–American rapprochement (Mao and Nixon meeting) as an ideological betrayal of Mao's own Three Worlds Theory — appeared as a lessening of Mao's commitment to Proletarian internationalism. Among communists, those contradictions, between the orthodoxy of Maoism and Mao's pragmatism, usually compelled the Marxist–Leninists to either mininise or repudiate the role of Maoism in the PRC's actions in the International Communist Movement, wherein Mao had favoured the Party of Labour of Albania, and advocated Stalinism, the stricter ideological adherence to the example of Stalin.
As revolutionary praxis, Maoism is the basic ideology of Communist parties politically sympathetic to the Communist Party of China. Since the death of Chairman Mao, in 1976, the Maoist Communist Party of Peru (Sendero Luminoso) coined the term Marxism–Leninism–Maoism, because Maoism is the more modern Marxism, adaptable to local conditions in Third-world South America. In 1977, the native Korean ideology of Juche (Self-reliance) replaced Marxism–Leninism as the official state ideology of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea; nonetheless, in contemporary socialist states, Marxism–Leninism is the official state ideology of the Republic of Cuba, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and the People's Republic of China, as Maoism.
|Part of a series on|
The Marxist–Leninist state is a one-party state wherein the communist party is the political vanguard who guides the proletariat and the working classes in establishing the social, economic, and cultural foundations of a socialist state, a stage of historical development enroute to the communist state. The government of the socialist state is the dictatorship of the proletariat, which defines, implements, and realises policy, by way of democratic centralism. The administrative offices and posts of government are filled with people elected at the local, regional, and national levels, usually by direct election; yet, indirect election also features in the Marxist–Leninist praxis of the People's Republic of China, the Republic of Cuba, and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1943–1992).
Originally, the socialist society was conceptually equal to the communist society; however, in defining the differences between Socialism and Communism, Lenin explained their similarity to Marx's conceptual descriptions of the lower-stage and the upper-stage of a communist society. That, immediately after a proletarian revolution, in lower-stage communism, the structure of a society must be based upon the labour contributed by individual men and women; whereas, in upper-stage communism, the structure of society would be: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.
The goal of Marxist–Leninist political economy is the emancipation of men and women from the dehumanisation caused by mechanistic work that is psychologically alienating; people are thus freed from having to perform alienating labour for financial access to the material necessities of life. That such freedom from poverty (material necessity) would maximise individual liberty, because men and women would be able to pursue their intellectual interests and talents, whilst working by choice, without the external coercion of poverty. In the Communist society, the advanced stage of economic development, the elimination of alienating labour depends upon technological advances in the development of the means of production, for which the communist society requires an educated workforce headed by a technological intelligentsia.
In the socialist, planned economy, the state co-ordinates with the means of production to produce and distribute goods and services required throughout the national economy. The economic value of the goods and services produced is based upon the object's use value — not the cost of production or the exchange value. Therefore, the purpose of material production (of goods and services) is to fulfil the economic plan to meet the material needs of the socialist society. The wages of the worker are determined according to the skills possessed and to the type of work he or she performs.
To effect Russian socialism, the Bolshevik government required the rapid industrialisation of the economy and transplanted peasant populations to the cities to work the new factories; farmers worked the system of collective farms. In the 1930s, the social philosophy of Marxism–Leninism proposed to the Russian peoples a socialist society of equals, based upon asceticism, egalitarianism, and self-sacrifice, yet recognised human nature and allowed consumerism to stimulate the communist economy of Bolshevik Russia.
Marxism–Leninism supports universal social welfare. Improvements in public health and education, provision of child care, provision of state-directed social services, and provision of social benefits are deemed by Marxist–Leninists to help to raise labour productivity and advance a society in development towards a communist society. This is part of Marxist–Leninists' advocacy of promoting and reinforcing the operation of a planned socialist economy. It advocates universal education, with a focus on developing the proletariat with knowledge, class consciousness, and understanding the historical development of communism.
Marxist–Leninist policy on family law has typically involved: the elimination of the political power of the bourgeoisie, the abolition of private property, and an education that teaches citizens to abide by a disciplined and self-fulfilling lifestyle dictated by the social norms of communism as a means to establish a new social order.
Marxism–Leninism supports the emancipation of women and ending the exploitation of women. The advent of a classless society, the abolition of private property, society collectively assuming many of the roles traditionally assigned to mothers and wives, and women becoming integrated into industrial work has been promoted as the means to achieve women's emancipation.
Marxist–Leninist cultural policy focuses upon modernisation and distancing society from: the past, the bourgeoisie, and the old intelligentsia. Agitprop and various associations and institutions are used by the Marxist–Leninist state to educate society with the values of communism. Both cultural and educational policy in Marxist–Leninist states have emphasised the development of a "New Man" — a class conscious, knowledgeable, heroic proletarian person devoted to work and social cohesion, as opposed to the antithetic "bourgeois individualist" associated with cultural backwardness and social atomisation.
The Marxist–Leninist world view is atheist, wherein all human activities are the result of human volition and not the actions of supernatural beings (gods and goddesses) who have direct agency in the public and private affairs of human society. The Soviet physicist Vitaly Ginzburg said that the "Bolshevik communists were not merely atheists, but, according to Lenin's terminology, militant atheists" in excluding religion from the social mainstream, from education, and from government.
The Marxist–Leninist atheism, by which people control the material affairs of the USSR, originated from the philosophies of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831) and Ludwig Feuerbach (1804–72), Karl Marx (1818–83) and Lenin (1870–1924). The philosophy of Materialism, that the physical universe exists independently of human consciousness, is one philosophic basis of the Marxist–Leninist perspective, applied as dialectical materialism, a philosophy of science and Nature, which applies the Hegelian dialectic for examining the people and things of the world in relation to each other as part of a dynamic, evolutionary environment that is not the static world of Metaphysics.
The Marxist–Leninist approach to international relations derives from the analyses (political and economic, sociologic and geopolitical) that Lenin presented in Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism (1917). Parting from and developing the philosophic bases of Marxism — (i) that human history is the history of class struggle, between a ruling class and an exploited class; (ii) that capitalism creates antagonistic social classes: the controlling bourgeoisie and the controlled proletariat; (iii) that capitalism employs nationalist war to further private economic expansion; (iv) that socialism is an economic system that voids social classes through public ownership, and so will eliminate the economic causes of war; and (v) that once the state (socialist or communist) withers away, so shall international relations wither away, because they are projections of national economic forces — Lenin said that the capitalists' exhaustion of domestic sources of investment profit, by way of price-fixing trusts and cartels, then prompts the same capitalists to export investment capital to undeveloped countries to finance the exploitation of natural resources and the native populations, and so create new markets. That the capitalists' control of national politics ensures the government's safeguarding of colonial investments; the consequent imperial competition for economic supremacy provokes international wars to protect their national interests.
In the vertical perspective (social-class relations) of Marxism–Leninism, the internal and international affairs of a country are a political continuum, not separate realms of human activity, which is the philosophic opposite of the horizontal perspectives (country-to-country) of the Liberal and the Realist approaches to international relations. Therefore, in the course of economic relations among countries, colonial imperialism is the inevitable consequence when the domestic price-fixing of monopoly capitalism has voided profitable competition in the capitalist homeland. The ideology of New Imperialism, rationalised as a civilising mission, allowed the exportation of high-profit investment capital to undeveloped countries, possessed of uneducated, native populations (sources of cheap labour), plentiful raw materials for exploitation (factors for manufacture), and a colonial market to consume the surplus production, which the capitalist homeland cannot consume. Like every previous imperial enterprise, the European Scramble for Africa (1881–1914) was safeguarded by the military.
To secure the colonies — foreign sources of new capital-investment-profit — the imperialist state seeks either political or military control of the limited resources (natural and human). The geopolitical conflicts among the empires of Europe resulted in the First World War (1914–18), over colonies and spheres of influence. For the colonised working classes who create the wealth, the elimination of war for natural resources (access, control, and exploitation) is resolved by overthrowing the militaristic capitalist state and establishing a socialist state; a peaceful world economy is feasible only by proletarian revolutions that overthrow systems of political economy based upon the exploitation of labour.
The philosophy of Marxism–Leninism originated as the pro-active, political praxis of the Bolshevik (Majority) faction, the left wing of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP). Lenin's leadership made the Bolshevik faction the SDLP's vanguard — committed, professional revolutionaries, who elected leaders and determined policy by way of democratic centralism. The Bolsheviks' pragmatic commitment to achieving revolution was their practical advantage in out-manoeuvring political parties that advocate social democracy without a plan of action; thus the Bolshevik Party successfully assumed command of the October Revolution, in 1917.
Twelve years before the October Revolution, Lenin and the Bolsheviks had failed to assume control of the February Revolution of 1905, because the centres of revolutionary action were too far apart for proper political co-ordination. To generate revolutionary momentum — from Tsarist violence such as the killings on Bloody Sunday (22 January 1905) — the Bolsheviks advocated militant action, that the workers use political violence to compel the bourgeois middle-classes (the nobility, the gentry, and the bourgeoisie) to join the proletarian revolution to overthrow the absolute monarchy of the Tsar of Russia.
Despite secret-police persecution by the Okhrana (Department for Protecting the Public Security and Order), émigré Bolsheviks returned to Russia to agitate, organise, and lead; and, when revolutionary fervour failed in 1907, returned to exile; Lenin to Switzerland. The failure of the February Revolution (1905–1907) exiled the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks, the Socialist Revolutionaries and the anarchists from Imperial Russia — a political defeat aggravated by Tsar Nicholas II's agreement to reforming government. In practice, the formalities of the State Duma, the political plurality of a multi-party system of elections, and the Russian Constitution of 1906 were piecemeal social concessions that favoured only the aristocracy, the gentry, and the bourgeoisie — but did not resolve the malnutrition, illiteracy, and poverty of the proletarian majority of Russia.
In Swiss exile, Lenin developed Marx's philosophy, and extrapolated colonial revolt as a reinforcement of proletarian revolution in Europe. Five years later, in 1912, Lenin resolved a factional challenge to his ideological leadership of the RSDLP, by the Forward Group in the party, by usurping the all-party congress, and then transformed the RSDLP into the Bolshevik Party.
On 3 March 1918, as promised to the Russian peoples in October 1917, Bolshevik Russia quit the Great War (1914–18); unlike the European socialists who chose bellicose nationalism, rather than anti-war internationalism, and fought the war to end all wars. To that effect, a small group of anti-war socialist leaders, including Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht, and Lenin, denounced the European socialists' forsaking the solidarity of working-class internationalism for patriotic war.
In the essay Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1917), Lenin explained that capitalist expansion leads to colonial imperialism, which is regulated with wars — such as the Great War among the empires of Europe. Late in 1917 — to relieve strategic pressures from the Western Front (4 August 1914 – 11 November 1918) — Imperial Germany impelled Imperial Russia's withdrawal from the war's Eastern Front (17 August 1914 – 3 March 1918), by sending Lenin and his Bolshevik cohort in a diplomatically sealed train to realise socialist revolution in Russia.
In March 1917, the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (r. 1894–1917) led to the Russian Provisional Government (March–July 1917), who then proclaimed the Russian Republic. Three months later, in the October Revolution, the Bolshevik coup d'état against the Provisional Government, resulted in the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (1917–1991), the first socialist state. Yet parts of Russia remained occupied by the counter-revolutionary White Movement, Tsarist and anti-communist military commanders who formed the White Army to fight the Russian Civil War (1917–1922) against the Bolshevik régime. Moreover, Russia remained a combatant in the Great War (1914–1918), which Bolshevik Russia quit with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (3 March 1918), and so provoked the Allied Intervention to the Russian Civil War (1918–1925), by the armies of seventeen countries, featuring Great Britain, France, and Italy, the U.S. and Imperial Japan.
In 1918, the Bolsheviks consolidated government power by expelling the Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries from the soviets. The Bolshevik government then established the Cheka secret-police to eliminate anti–Bolshevik opposition in Russia. Initial opposition to the Bolshevik régime was strong, for not having resolved the food shortages and poverty of the Russian peoples, as promised in October 1917; from that social discontent the Cheka reported 118 uprisings, including the Kronstadt rebellion (7–17 March 1921).
The Bolshevik government introduced limited nationalisation of the means of production, which had been private property of the Russian aristocracy, during the Tsarist monarchy. To fulfil the promised redistribution of Russia's arable land, Lenin encouraged the peasantry to reclaim their farmlands from the aristocrats, and so ensured the peasantry's political loyalty to the Bolshevik Party. In mid-1918, to overcome the civil war's economic interruption, the war communism policy featured a regulated market, state-control of the means of distribution, and the Decree on Nationalisation of large-scale farms, which requisitioned grain to feed industrial workers in the cities and the Red Army in the field, whilst fighting the White Army seeking to re-establish the Romanov dynasty as absolute monarchs of Russia. Politically, the forced grain-requisitions discouraged peasants from farming, which resulted in reduced-harvests and food-shortages, which, in turn, provoked labour strikes and food riots; yet, the economic chaos — caused by the Bolshevik government's voiding the monetary economy — the Russian people replaced with barter and the black market.
In 1921, the New Economic Policy restored some private enterprise to animate the Russian economy; as part of Lenin's pragmatic compromise with external financial interests in 1918, Bolshevik state capitalism temporarily returned 91 per cent of industry to private ownership — until the Soviet Russians learned to operate and administrate said industries. In that vein, Lenin explained that developing socialism in Russia would proceed according to the material and socio-economic conditions of Russia, and not as described by Karl Marx in the 19th century; Lenin's pragmatic explanation was: "Our poverty is so great that we cannot, at one stroke, restore full-scale factory, state, socialist production." To overcome the lack of educated Russians who could operate and administrate industry, Lenin advocated the development of a technical intelligentsia who would propel the industrial development of Russia to self-sufficiency.
The principal obstacles to Russian economic development and modernisation were great material poverty and the lack of modern technology, which conditions Orthodox Marxism considered unfavourable to communist revolution; that agricultural Russia was right for developing capitalism, but wrong for the development of socialism.  The 1921–1924 period was tumultuous in Russia, the simultaneous occurrence of economic recovery, famine (1921–1922), and a financial crisis (1924); yet, by 1924, the Bolshevik government had achieved much economic progress, and, by 1926, the production levels of the Soviet Union's economy had risen to the production levels registered in 1913.
Elsewhere, during the 1918–1920 period, the successful October Revolution in Russia facilitated communist revolution in Imperial Germany and in Hungary. In Berlin, the German government and their Freikorps mercenaries fought and defeated the Spartacist uprising (4–5 January 1919), which began as a general strike; and in Munich, likewise fought and defeated the Bavarian Soviet Republic (April 1919). In Hungary, the workers proclaimed the Hungarian Soviet Republic (March–August 1919), which was defeated by the royal armies of the Kingdom of Romania and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and the army of Czechoslovakia. In Asia, successful Mongolian communist revolution established the Mongolian People's Republic (1924–1992).
In his political testament (December 1922) to the Communist Party, Lenin ordered Stalin removed from being the party's General Secretary, and replaced with "some other person who is superior to Stalin only in one respect, namely, in being more tolerant, more loyal, more polite, and more attentive to comrades". At his death on 21 January 1924, Lenin's testament was read aloud to the Central Committee of the CPSU — but enough committeemen believed in Stalin's political rehabilitation, in 1923 — and ignored Lenin's order to remove Stalin.
Consequent to personally spiteful disputes about the praxis of Leninism, to the October Revolution veterans, Lev Kamenev and Grigory Zinoviev, the true, ideological threat to the integrity of the Communist Party was Trotsky — a personally charismatic political-leader; the commanding officer of the Red Army in the civil war; and revolutionary partner of the dead Lenin. To thwart Trotsky's likely election to head the Communist Party, Stalin, Kamenev, and Zinoviev formed a Troika (Triumvirate), wherein Stalin was General Secretary of the CPSU — the de facto centre of power in the party and the country.
The direction of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was decided in the confrontation of politics and personality — between Stalin's Troika and Trotsky — over which Marxist policy to pursue: Trotsky's policy of Permanent Revolution or Stalin's policy of Socialism in One Country? Permanent Revolution featured rapid industrialisation of the economy, the collectivisation of private farmlands, and the USSR's promotion of worldwide communist revolution. Socialism in One Country featured moderate-pace national development and the establishment of economic and diplomatic relations with other countries, in order to increase international trade with and foreign investment in the USSR.
To politically isolate and oust Trotsky from the CPSU, Stalin expediently advocated the politics of Socialism in One Country — to which he was indifferent. In 1925, the 14th Communist Party Congress approved Stalin's policy, and Trotsky was politically defeated as a possible, rival leader of the CPSU and the USSR.
In the 1925–1927 period, Stalin dissolved the Troika and disowned the moderate Kamenev and Zinoviev, for an expedient alliance with the equally opportunistic Nikolai Bukharin, Alexei Rykov (Premier of Russia, 1924–1929; of the USSR, 1924–1930), and Mikhail Tomsky (Leader, All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions) — the most right-wing Revolution-era Bolsheviks in the CPSU. The 1927 Communist Party Conference endorsed Stalin's Socialism in One Country as the national policy for the Soviet Union; and expelled Trotsky, Kamenev, and Zinoviev, from the party's politburo.
In 1929, by way of deception and administrative acumen, Stalin had assumed control (personal and political) of the Communist Party and the USSR proper. By then, the Stalinist régime of Socialism in One Country had associated revolutionary Bolshevism with the harsh socio-economic policies that a centralised state required to realise the rapid industrialisation of the cities and the collectivisation of agriculture in Russia; and to subordinate the national interests of the world's communist parties to the geopolitical interests of the CPSU.
In the 1929–1932 period of the First five-year plan, Stalin effected the dekulakization of Russian farmlands, a politically radical and harsh dispossession of the kulak class of peasant-landlords, about which Bukharin, Rykov, and Tomsky had moderate-action recommendations to ameliorate the policy. Stalin took umbrage, and accused them of un-Communist betrayals of Marxism and Leninism. From that implicit accusation of ideological deviation, Stalin then accused the three October Revolution veterans of plotting against the CPSU, and compelled their resignations from public office and from their posts in the CPSU politburo.
To complete his purge of the CPSU, Stalin then exiled Trotsky from the USSR, in 1929. From 1929 onwards, internal opposition to Stalin's régime created Trotskyism (Bolshevik–Leninism), which was outlawed as ideological deviance from Marxism–Leninism, the state ideology of the USSR.
In the 1929–1941 period, Stalin's elimination of Bolshevik rivals ended democracy in the Communist Party, and replaced them with his personal control of the Party's institutions. The ranks and files of the CPSU increased with members from the trade unions and from the factories, whom he controlled because there were no other Bolsheviks to contradict Stalin's version of Marxism–Leninism. In 1936, the USSR adopted a new, political constitution, which ended weighted-voting preferences for workers and promulgated universal suffrage for every man and woman older than 18 years of age; organised the soviets (councils of workers) into two legislatures: (i) the Soviet of the Union (representing electoral districts), and (ii) the Soviet of the Nationalities (representing the ethnic groups of the country); and, by 1939, Stalin had either killed or expelled from the Communist Party all of the Bolsheviks from the October Revolution era.
Under guise of governing by the principles of Marxism–Leninism, Stalin's dictatorial régime made the USSR a police state, unlike Lenin's socialist state of the Bolshevik period. Extensive personal control over the men who were the Communist Party licenced Stalin to use political violence to eliminate anyone who might be a threat — real, potential, or imagined.
As an administrator, Stalin governed the USSR by controlling the formulation of national policy, and delegated implementation to subordinate CPSU functionaries. Such freedom of action allowed local communist functionaries much discretion to interpret the intent of orders from Moscow, which allowed their corruption. To Stalin, the correction of such abuses of authority and economic corruption were responsibility of the secret police, the NKVD (People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs). Therefore, with the Great Purge (1936–1938), Stalin rid himself of internal enemies in the CPSU, and rid Russia of every counter-revolutionary, reactionary, and socially dangerous man and woman who might offer legitimate political opposition to Marxism–Leninism; thus, in the 1937–1938 period, the NKVD, arrested 1.5 million people from every stratum of the CPSU and of soviet society, and killed 681,692 people for political reasons. Moreover, to provide manpower (intellectual and manual) to realise the construction projects for Stalin's rapid industrialisation of Russia, the NKVD established the Gulag system of forced-labour camps for criminal convicts and political dissidents, for artists and intellectuals, for homosexual people and religious anti-communists.
Five-year plans for the national economy of the Soviet Union achieved the rapid industrialisation (coal, iron and steel, electricity, petroleum, etc.) and the collectivisation of agriculture — achieving 23.6 per cent collectivisation within one year (1930) and 98.0 per cent collectivisation within twelve years (1941). In the 1920s — the time of the Russian Civil War (1917–22) and the seventeen foreign armies of the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War (1918–25) — as the revolutionary vanguard of the nation, the Communist Party had organised Russian society to realise the rapid industrialisation programs as defence against Western interference with Bolshevik Russia.
Rapid industrialisation accelerated the Russians' sociological transition from the poverty of Tsarist serfdom to the relative plenty of Communist self-determination; peasants became urban citizens. During the 1930s, the Marxist–Leninist economic régime modernised Russia, from an illiterate, peasant society under Tsarist monarchy, to a literate society of farmers and industrial workers under socialism; unemployment was almost nil.
In 1934, Stalin's development of Soviet society contradicted, and then replaced, the social, cultural, and intellectual freedoms of Lenin's Bolshevik period; thus, in education, traditional Russian authoritarianism (harsh discipline, school uniforms, etc.) replaced pedagogic experimentation and relaxed social conduct; mental conformity, rather than intellectual liberty. Culturally, the Russian arts were subordinated to the ideological limitations of socialist realism, a form of Russian patriarchy admired by the traditionalist Stalin. Organised religion was excluded from the political mainstream of Soviet society, and was repressed whenever a religious organisation openly opposed the official atheism of the USSR.
In 1933, the Marxist–Leninist geopolitical perspective was that the USSR was surrounded by capitalist and anti-communist enemies, for which reason, the election of Adolf Hitler, and the concomitant Nazi party government in Germany, initially resulted in the Soviet Union severing political and diplomatic relations established in the 1920s. In 1938, Stalin turned to accommodate Czechoslovakia and the West in defence against Hitler's threat of pre-emptive warfare to "recover" the Sudetenland, the German peoples and lands within Czecho.
To challenge Nazi Germany's bid for European supremacy and hegemony, Stalin promoted anti-fascist fronts throughout Europe, with socialists, democrats, et al., and entered political agreements with France to counter Nazi Germany in the west of Europe. After the Nazis bluffed the British into the Munich Agreement (29 September 1938) that allowed the German occupation of Czechoslovakia (1938–45), Stalin reversed his anti-German foreign policy and adopted pro-German policies. In 1939, the USSR and Nazi Germany agreed to both a Treaty of Non-aggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, 23 August 1939) and agreed to jointly invade and partition Poland, by which Nazi Germany started the Second World War on 1 September 1939.
In the 1941–1942 period of the Great Patriotic War, the German invasion of the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa, 22 June 1941) was ineffectively opposed by a Red Army who were poorly led, ill-trained, and under-equipped, and fought poorly and suffered great losses of dead and wounded, and PoWs; such Soviet military weakness was one consequence of the Great Purge of senior officers and career soldiers. The extensive and greatly effective Nazi attack threatened the territorial integrity of the Soviet Union, and the political integrity of Stalin's Marxist–Leninist state, because the Nazis were initially welcomed as liberators, by nationalist, anti-communist, and anti-soviet populations in the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic, and the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.
The nationalists' collaboration with the anti-communist Nazi occupier lasted until the SS and the Einsatzgruppen began their genocide of the Jewish communities, and the systematic killings of communists and civil leaders, to realise the ethnic cleansing of the Soviet lands for German colonisation. In response, Stalin ordered the Red Army to fight campaigns of total war against the exterminating invaders of Russia. Hitler's attack against his erstwhile Communist ally, realigned Stalin's policies and priorities from the repression of internal enemies to the existential defence of Russia, against an external enemy; the aggressively anti–Communist Third Reich. The Nazi attack compelled Stalin to a pragmatic alliance with the Western Powers, in common front against the Axis Powers — Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan.
Elsewhere, in the countries invaded by the Axis powers, the native Communist Party usually led armed resistance (guerrilla warfare and urban guerrilla warfare) against military occupation. In Asia, in 1937, Stalin, ordered the Communist Party of China, led by Mao Zedong, to abandon the Chinese civil war (from 1937 to 1941) and collaborate with the anti-communist Kuomintang, as the Second United Front in the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), the occupation of China. In Mediterranian Europe, the Communist Yugoslav Partisans, led by Tito, effectively resisted the Nazi and fascist occupation. In the 1943–44 period, with Red Army assistance, Tito's Partisans liberated territories and established the Communist political authority that became the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
In 1943, the Red Army began to repel the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, especially at the five-month Battle of Stalingrad (23 Aug. 1942 – 2 Feb. 1943) and at the eleven-day Battle of Kursk (5–16 April 1943); and afterwards repelled the Nazi and fascist occupation armies from Russia and the countries of Eastern Europe, until decisive defeat with the Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation (16 April May 1945), in Germany proper. On concluding the Great Patriotic War (1941–1945), as a military superpower, the Soviet Union had a say in the geopolitical order of the world. In that vein, and in accordance with the three-power Yalta Agreement (4–11 Feb. 1945), the USSR purged native fascist collaborators from the Eastern European countries occupied by the Axis Powers, and afterwards installed native Communist governments, to establish a geographic buffer-zone of satellite states to protect the borders of Russia.
At the end of the Second World War (1939–1945), geopolitical tensions among the non-communist Western Allies and the communist Eastern allies resulted in the Cold War (1945–1991), between the blocs led by the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The events that precipitated the Cold War were the Soviet and Yugoslav, Bulgarian and Albanian intervention to the Greek Civil War (1946–1949) in behalf of the Greek Communists, and the Soviet Unions's Berlin Blockade (1948–1949). In China, the civil war resumed between the Western-backed anti-communist Kuomintang, led by Chiang Kai-shek, against the Soviet-backed Chinese Communist Party, led by Mao Zedong; when the Communists defeated the Kuomintang, Mao established the People's Republic of China (PRC), on 1 October 1949.
A year later, in 1950, the Korean civil war became the Korean War (1950–1953), the first East–West war occurred in Asia during the Cold War. In response to invasion from north Korea, the United Nations Security Council, with the Soviet Union absent for the vote, decided on international intervention to cease the warfare in Korea. The U.S. and their Western European allies used the war to support South Korea, led by Syngman Rhee, against Soviet- and Chinese-backed North Korea, led by Kim Il-sung; in 1953, an armistice halted the Korean War in stalemate.
Among the European communist countries, the Yugoslav–Soviet split (1948) resulted from Tito's rejection of Stalin's demand that Yugoslav national goals be subordinated to the Soviet Union's geopolitical agenda (ideological, political, economic). After denouncing Tito as a bad communist and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1943–1991) as disloyal to the international communist cause, Stalin expelled socialist Yugoslavia from the Cominform, the Communist Information Bureau. Having rejected Soviet hegemony, through membership in the Eastern bloc, Marshal Tito developed Titoism, the Yugoslav variety of Marxism–Leninism that is a nationalist road to socialism, unlike that of the USSR; and then sought and established Yugoslavia's relations with the East and the West, which then developed into the Non-Aligned Movement (1961).
At the death of Stalin in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev became leader of the CPSU and of the Soviet Union. Three years later, at a communist party congress, in the speech, On the Cult of Personality and its Consequences (25 February 1956), Khruschev secretly announced the de-Stalinisation of the Communist Party and of the USSR; condemned Stalin's dictatorial excesses; ordered the dismantling of the Gulag forced-labour camps; and allowed a measure of freedom of expression to political activists, such as the novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, but did not personally criticise the dead Stalin. Khrushchev's de-Stalinization ended Stalin's policies of socialism in one country, and re-committed the USSR to actively supporting perpetual revolution. In that vein, the Khruschev government promoted the policies of de-Stalinization as the restoration of Leninism as the official, state ideology of the USSR.
In the 1960s, the People's Republic of China (PRC) developed Maoism (the Thought of Mao Zedong), as a Chinese variant of Marxism–Leninism, which later provoked ideological, political, and nationalist tensions bewteen the USSR and the PRC about the correct orthodox-interpretation of Marxist–Leninist ideology; given the different stages of Russian and Chinese development the communists' intractable arguments about ideology provoked the Sino-Soviet split (1956–1966).
Afterwards, the PRC pursued détente with the U.S., as a challenge to the USSR for leadership of the international communist movement. That pragmatic Chinese overture permitted geopolitical rapprochement and facilitated U.S. Pres. Richard Nixon's 1972 visit to China, which subsequently ended the American policy of "two Chinas" when the U.S. sponsored the PRC to replace the Republic of China (Taiwan) to representing the Chinese people at the United Nations (UN); the People's Republic of China then took seat in the UN Security Council.
In the post–Mao period, Deng Xiaoping (1982–87) effected policies of economic liberalisation, which resulted in continual economic growth for the PRC, the ideological justification is Socialism with Chinese characteristics, that is the adaption of (Russian) Marxism–Leninism to China.
In Latin America, Communist revolutions, based upon Marxism–Leninism, occurred in Bolivia, Cuba, and El Salvador, in Grenada and Nicaragua, Peru and Uruguay. In 1959, the Cuban Revolution, led by Fidel Castro and Ché Guevara, overthrew the régime (1925–59) of Fulgencio Batista, to establish the Republic of Cuba, a communist state recognised by the USSR. In response, the U.S. attempted coups d'État against the Castro government, such as the unsuccessful Bay of Pigs invasion (April 1961), by anti-communist Cuban exiles, sponsored by the CIA. The next year, there occurred the Cuban missile crisis (October 1962), a diplomatic dispute between the U.S. and the Soviet Union over the presence of medium-range, Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba. The Soviet Union resolved the nuclear-missile crisis by removing their missiles from Cuba in exchange for the U.S. removing their nuclear missiles from the Turkey–USSR border. In Bolivia, the communist revolution included Guevara, until his execution by the Bolivian Army. In Uruguay, the Tupamaros movement was active from the 1960s to the 1970s.
In 1970, there occurred the October Crisis in Canada, a brief revolution in the province of Quebec, where the separatist Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) kidnapped James Cross, the British Trade Commissioner in Canada, and Pierre Laporte, the Quebec government minister, who was killed. The FLQ's manifesto condemned English-Canadian imperialism in French Québec, and called for a Québecois socialist state. The harsh Canadian government response included suspension of civil liberties in Quebec, which compelled the FLQ leaders' flight to Cuba.
In 1979, Daniel Ortega, leader of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, became head of state of Nicaragua upon winning the Nicaraguan civil war; within months, the U.S. government of Ronald Reagan then sponsored the Contras in a secret war (1979–1990) against Nicaragua. In 1983, the U.S. invasion of Grenada impeded the assumption of power by the New Jewel Movement (1973–1983), a vanguard party led by Maurice Bishop. The Salvadoran Civil War (1979–1992) featured the popularly supported Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, an organisation of Left-wing parties, fighting against the right-wing military government of El Salvador.
The Vietnam War (1945–1975) was the second East–West war that occurred in Asia during the Cold War. After the Vietnamese Communists, led by Ho Chi Minh, defeated the French re-establishment of European colonialism in Viet Nam, the U.S. replaced France as the Western support of the client-state Republic of Vietnam (1955–1975). Despite military superiority, the U.S. failed to safeguard South Vietnam from the Viet Cong, the guerrilla army sponsored by North Vietnam. In 1968, North Vietnam launched the Tet Offensive, although a military failure, the attack was successful psychological warfare that decisively turned international public opinion against the U.S. intervention to the Vietnamese civil war, and, five years later, eventual U.S. withdrawal from the war, in 1973, and the subsequent Fall of Saigon to the Vietnamese Communists forces in 1975.
Consequent to the Cambodian civil war, and in coalition with Prince Norodom Sihanouk, the native Cambodian Communists, the Maoist Khmer Rouge (1951–1999), led by Pol Pot, established Democratic Kampuchea (1975–1982), a Marxist–Leninist state that featured class warfare to restructure the society of old Cambodia; to be effected and realised with the abolishment of money and private property, the outlawing of religion, the killing of the intelligentsia, and compulsory manual labour for the middle classes, by way of death-squad state terrorism.
To eliminate Western cultural influence, Kampuchea expelled all foreigners and effected the destruction of the urban bourgeoisie of old Cambodia, first, by displacing the population of the capital city (Phnom Penh), and then by displacing the entire national populace to work the farmlands to increase food supplies. Meanwhile, the Khmer Rouge purged Kampuchea of internal enemies (social-class and political, cultural and ethnic) at the killing fields, the scope of which became crimes against humanity that destroyed 2, 700, 000 people by mass murder and genocide. That social restructuring of Cambodia included attacks against the Vietnamese ethnic minority in Kampuchea, which aggravated the historical, ethnic rivalries between the Viet and the Khmer peoples. Beginning in September 1977, Kampuchea and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam continually engaged in border clashes, and, in 1978, Vietnam invaded Kampuchea and captured Phnom Penh in January 1979, deposed the Maoist Khmer Rouge from government, and established the Cambodian Liberation Front for National Renewal as the government of Cambodia.
In Africa, in the 1968–1980 period, Angola, Benin, the Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Somalia, and Zimbabwe became Marxist–Leninist states governed by their respective native peoples; Marxist–Leninist guerrillas fought the Portuguese Colonial War in three countries, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, and Mozambique; overthrew of the monarchy of Haile Selassie (r. 1916–1974), and established the Derg government (1974–1987) of the Coordinating Committee of the Armed Forces, Police and Territorial Army, in Ethiopia; Robert Mugabe led the successful civil war to overthrow white-minority rule in Rhodesia (1965–1979) in order to establish Zimbabwe. In South Africa, the anti-communist, white-minority government — based upon the official racism of apartheid — caused much geopolitical tension between the Soviet Union and the U.S. In 1976, anti-communism became morally untenable for the West, when the South African government killed 176 people (students and adults) in the suppression of the Soweto uprising (June 1976), which protested Afrikaaner cultural imperialism, the racist imposition of Afrikaans (a European Germanic language) as the language for teaching school and as the language that black South Africans must speak to white people; and the police assassination, in September 1977, of Steven Biko, a leader of the internal resistance to apartheid in South Africa.