The former head of the Soviet State of Russian, Lenin has a debatable reputation as a political leader. His ideals are still revered by some but reviled by many. He was responsible for the deaths of many during civil war. His contributions to Marxist theory are commonly referred to as Leninism.
1. Start in Political Involvement
While studying at the university Lenin became involved in politics. He participated in a number of protests, formed important alliances and organized a number of different political groups.
Lenin was expelled from Kazan University because of his open rebellion and finished his law studies in St. Petersburg. After passing his law exams in 1891, Lenin started practicing law in Samara. Lenin practiced as a lawyer for some years but rather than pursuing a legal career, he became increasingly involved in revolutionary propaganda efforts. He then joined the local Marxist group.
3. Union of Struggle
When Lenin returned to Russia, he and some of his friends formed the Union of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class. This would prove to be his first formation of what would become a quite extensive involvement in groups and parties to promote his cause.
4. Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism
In the spring of 1916 Lenin wrote the important theoretical work Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism. In this work, Lenin argues that the merging of banks and industrial cartels give rise to finance capital. According to Lenin, in the last stage of capitalism, in pursuit of greater profits than the home market can offer, capital is exported. This leads to the division of the world between international monopolist firms and to European states colonizing large parts of the world in support of their businesses. Imperialism is thus an advanced stage of capitalism, one relying on the rise of monopolies and on the export of capital (rather than goods), and of which colonialism is one feature.
5. Chair of the Council of People’s Commissars
On November 8, 1917, Lenin was elected as the Chair of the Council of People’s Commissars by the Russian Congress of Soviets.
6. Assassination Attempt
On January 14, 1918, an assassination attempt on Lenin was made following a public speech. Lenin was shot in the neck, but he was not killed. The bullet was not removed until years later and may have been the cause for a series of strokes that eventually incapacitated Lenin.
7. Communists Internaional
In March 1919, Lenin and other Bolshevik leaders formed the Communist International, and from that point forward they would become known as communists. In Russia, the Bolshevik Party was renamed the “Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks),” which eventually became the CPSU.
8. Red Army vs. White Army
Although many different factions were involved in the civil war, the two main forces were the Red Army (communists) and the White Army (traditionalists). Eventually, the Red Army won the civil war, defeating the White Russian forces and their allies in 1920. However, smaller battles continued for several more years and many millions perished.
9. War Communism
During the civil war, the Bolsheviks adopted the policy of War Communism. That involved “requisitioning” supplies from the peasantry for little or nothing in exchange. After famine and peasant uprisings, Lenin replaced the policy of War Communism with the New Economic Policy (NEP), in a successful attempt to rebuild industry and agriculture. The whole policy was later reversed by Stalin.
10. Lenin Mausoleum
Lenin’s preserved body is on permanent display at the Lenin Mausoleum. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, respect for Lenin has declined considerably. Most statues of Lenin have been torn down in Eastern Europe, but many still remain in Russia and ex-Soviet Central Asia. Lenin’s writings were carefully censored under the Soviet regime after his death.