VLADIMIR I. LENIN Biography - Activists, Revolutionaries and other freedom fighters


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Name: Vladimir Ilyich Lenin                                                                                   
Born: 22 April 1870 Simbirsk, Russian Empire                                                                   
Died: 21 January 1924 Gorki, Russian SFSR                                                                     
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, and also known by the pseudonyms                         
Nikolai Lenin and N. Lenin, (April 22, 1870 - January 21, 1924), was a Russian                                 
revolutionary, a communist politician, the main leader of the October Revolution,                             
the first head of the Russian Soviet Socialist Republic and from 1922, the first                               
de facto leader of the Soviet Union. He was the creator of Leninism, an                                       
extension of Marxist theory.                                                                                   
Born in Simbirsk, Russian Empire (now Ulyanovsk), Lenin was the son of Ilya                                   
Nikolaevich Ulyanov and Maria Alexandrovna Ulyanova. His father was a successful                               
Russian official in public education who worked in education and wanted                                       
democracy. The family was of mixed ethnicity, his ancestry being “Russian,                                   
Kalmyk, Jewish, German, and Swedish, and possibly others” according to                                       
biographer Dmitri Volkogonov. Lenin was baptized into the Russian Orthodox                                     
In 1886, Lenin's father died of a cerebral hemorrhage, and, in May 1887, when                                 
Lenin was 17 years old, his eldest brother Alexander was arrested and hanged for                               
participating in a terrorist bomb plot threatening the life of Tsar Alexander                                 
III. His sister Anna, who was with Alexander at the time of his arrest, was                                   
banished to his family estate in the village of Kokushkino, about 40 km (25 mi.)                               
from Kazan. This event radicalized Lenin, and his official Soviet biographies                                 
describe it as central to the revolutionary track of his life. It is also                                     
significant, perhaps, that this emotional upheaval transpired in the same year                                 
as that which saw him enroll at the Kazan State University. A famous painting by                               
Belousov, We Will Follow a Different Path, reprinted in millions of Soviet                                     
textbooks, depicted young Lenin and his mother grieving the loss of his elder                                 
brother. The phrase We will follow a different path refers to Lenin choosing a                                 
Marxist approach to popular revolution, instead of anarchist or individualist                                 
methods. As Lenin became interested in Marxism, he was involved in student                                     
protests and was subsequently arrested. He was then expelled from Kazan                                       
University for his political ideas. He continued to study independently, however,                             
and it was during this period of exile that he first familiarized himself with                                 
Karl Marx's Das Kapital. Lenin was later permitted to continue his studies, this                               
time at the University of Saint Petersburg, and, by 1891, had been admitted to                                 
the Bar. He also distinguished himself in Latin and Greek, and learned German,                                 
French and English. His knowledge of the latter two languages was limited: he                                 
relied on Inessa Armand to translate an article into French and into English in                               
1917. In the same year he also wrote to S. N. Ravich in Geneva I am unable to                                 
lecture in French.                                                                                             
Lenin practiced as a lawyer for some years in Samara, a port on the Volga river,                               
before moving to St Petersburg in 1893. Rather than pursuing a legal career,                                   
he became increasingly involved in revolutionary propaganda efforts, joining the                               
local Marxist group. On December 7, 1895, Lenin was arrested, held by                                         
authorities for fourteen months and then released and exiled to the village of                                 
Shushenskoye in Siberia, where he mingled with such notable Marxists as Georgy                                 
Plekhanov, who had introduced socialism to Russia.                                                             
In July 1898, Lenin married socialist activist Nadezhda Krupskaya and he                                       
published the book The Development of Capitalism in Russia in April of 1899.                                   
In 1900, his exile came to an end, and he began his travels throughout Russia                                 
and the rest of Europe. Lenin lived in Zurich, Geneva (where he lectured and                                   
studied at Geneva State University), Munich, Prague, Vienna, Manchester and                                   
London, and, during this time, he co-founded the newspaper Iskra (The Spark)                                   
with Julius Martov, who later became a leading opponent. He also wrote several                                 
articles and books related to the revolutionary movement, striving to recruit                                 
future Social Democrats. He began using various aliases, finally settling upon ‘Lenin’                     
— ‘N. Lenin’ in full.                                                                                   
Lenin was active in the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP; РСДРП in                           
Russian) and, in 1903, led the Bolshevik faction after a split with the                                       
Mensheviks. The names ‘Bolshevik’, or ‘Majority’, and ‘Menshevik’, or ‘Minority’,             
referred to the narrow outvoting of the Mensheviks in the decision to limit                                   
party membership to revolutionary professionals, rather than including                                         
sympathizers. The division was inspired partly by Lenin’s pamphlet What Is to Be                             
Done? (1901–02), which focused on his revolutionary strategy. It is said to have                             
been one of the most influential pamphlets in pre-revolutionary Russia, with                                   
Lenin himself claiming that three out of five workers had either read it or had                               
had it read to them. In 1906, Lenin was elected to the Presidium of the RSDLP                                 
— but, almost from then right up until the revolutions of 1917, he spent the                                 
majority of his time exiled in Europe, where, despite a hard and bitter                                       
existence, he managed to continue his political writings.                                                     
This self-imposed exile began in 1907, when he moved to Finland for security                                   
reasons. In response to philosophical debates on the proper course of a                                       
socialist revolution, Lenin completed Materialism and Empirio-criticism in 1909                               
— a work which became fundamental in the Marxist-Leninist philosophy. Lenin                                 
continued to travel in Europe and participated in many socialist meetings and                                 
activities, including the Prague Party Conference of 1912. When Inessa Armand                                 
left Russia and settled in Paris, she met Lenin and other Bolsheviks living in                                 
exile, and it is believed that she was Lenin's lover during this time. As writer                               
Neil Harding points out[8] however, although much has been made of this                                       
relationship, despite the “slender stock of evidence … we still have no evidence                           
that they were sexually intimate”.                                                                           
When the First World War began in 1914, and the large Social Democratic parties                               
of Europe (at that time self-described as Marxist, and including luminaries such                               
as Karl Kautsky) supported their various countries’ war efforts, Lenin was                                   
absolutely stunned, refusing to believe at first that the German Social                                       
Democrats had voted for war credits. This led him to a final split with the                                   
Second International, which was composed of these parties. Lenin (against the                                 
war in his belief that the peasants and workers were fighting the battle of the                               
bourgeoisie for them) adopted the stance that what he described as an “imperialist                           
war” ought to be turned into a civil war between the classes. As war broke out,                             
Lenin was briefly detained by the Austrian authorities in the town of Poronin,                                 
where he was residing at the time. On 5 September 1914 Lenin moved to neutral                                 
Switzerland, residing first at Berne and then Zurich. In 1915 he attended                                     
the anti-war Zimmerwald Conference, convened in the Swiss town of that name.                                   
Lenin was the main leader of the Zimmerwald Left.                                                             
It was in Zurich in the spring of 1916 that 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.                                                                             
After the 1917 February Revolution in Russia and the abdication of Tsar Nicholas                               
II, Lenin realized that he must return to Russia as soon as possible, but this                                 
was problematic because he was isolated in neutral Switzerland as the First                                   
World War raged throughout neighboring states. The Swiss communist Fritz Platten                               
nonetheless managed to negotiate with the German government for Lenin and his                                 
company to travel through Germany by rail, on the so-called “sealed train”. The                           
German government clearly hoped Lenin's return would create political unrest                                   
back in Russia, which would help to end the war on the Eastern front, allowing                                 
Germany to concentrate on defeating the Western allies. Once through Germany,                                 
Lenin continued by ferry to Sweden; the remainder of the journey through                                       
Scandinavia was subsequently arranged by Swedish communists Otto Grimlund and                                 
Ture Nerman.                                                                                                   
On April 16, 1917, Lenin arrived by train to a tumultuous reception at Finland                                 
Station, in Petrograd. He immediately took a leading role within the                                           
Bolshevik movement, publishing the April Theses, which called for an                                           
uncompromising opposition to the provisional government. Initially, Lenin                                     
isolated his party through this lurch to the left. However, this uncompromising                               
stand meant that the Bolsheviks were to become the obvious home for all those                                 
who became disillusioned with the provisional government, and with the “luxury                               
of opposition” the Bolsheviks did not have to assume responsibility for any                                 
policies implemented by the government.                                                                       
Meanwhile, Aleksandr Kerensky, Grigory Aleksinsky and other opponents of the                                   
Bolsheviks accused them and Lenin in particular of being paid German agents.                                   
In response Leon Trotsky, a prominent new Bolshevik leader, made a defensive                                   
speech on July 17, saying:                                                                                     
“ An intolerable atmosphere has been created, in which you as well as we are                                 
choking. They are throwing dirty accusations at Lenin and Zinoviev. Lenin has                                 
fought thirty years for the revolution. I have fought twenty years against the                                 
oppression of the people. And we cannot but cherish a hatred for German                                       
militarism. … I have been sentenced by a German court to eight months                                       
imprisonment for my struggle against German militarism. This everybody knows.                                 
Let nobody in this hall say that we are hirelings of Germany.                                                 
After turmoil of the July Days, when workers and soldiers in the capital clashed                               
with government troops, Lenin had to flee to Finland for safety, to avoid arrest                               
by Kerensky. The Bolsheviks had not arranged the July Uprising. The time was                                   
still not ripe for revolution, claimed Lenin: the workers in the city were                                     
willing, but the Bolsheviks still needed to wait for the support of the peasants.                             
During his short time in Finland, Lenin finished his book State and Revolution,                               
which called for a new form of government based on workers’ councils, or soviets                             
elected and revocable at all moments by the workers. He returned to Petrograd in                               
October, inspiring the October Revolution with the slogan “All Power to the                                 
Soviets!” Lenin directed the overthrow of the Provisional Government from the                               
Smolny Institute from the 6th to the 8th of November 1917. The storming and                                   
capitulation of the Winter Palace on the night of the 7th to 8th of November                                   
marked the beginning of Soviet rule.                                                                           
On November 8, 1917, Lenin was elected as the Chair of the Council of People's                                 
Commissars by the Russian Congress of Soviets.                                                                 
“Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the entire country,”                               
Lenin said, emphasizing the importance of bringing electricity to all corners of                               
Russia and modernizing industry and agriculture:                                                               
“ We must show the peasants that the organization of industry on the basis of                               
modern, advanced technology, on electrification which will provide a link                                     
between town and country, will put an end to the division between town and                                     
country, will make it possible to raise the level of culture in the countryside                               
and to overcome, even in the most remote corners of land, backwardness,                                       
ignorance, poverty, disease, and barbarism. ”                                                               
He initiated and supervised devising and realization of the GOELRO plan, the                                   
first-ever Soviet project for national economic recovery and development. He was                               
very concerned about creating a free universal health care system for all, the                                 
rights of women, and teaching the illiterate Russian people to read and write.                                 
But first and foremost, the new Bolshevik government needed to take Russia out                                 
of the World War.                                                                                             
Faced with the threat of a continuing German advance eastwards, Lenin argued                                   
that Russia should immediately sign a peace treaty. Other Bolshevik leaders,                                   
such as Bukharin, advocated continuing the war as a means of fomenting                                         
revolution in Germany. Trotsky, who led the negotiations, advocated an                                         
intermediate position, of “No War, No Peace”, calling for a peace treaty only on                           
the conditions that no territorial gains on either side be consolidated. After                                 
the negotiations collapsed, the Germans renewed their advance, resulting in the                               
loss of much of Russia’s western territory. As a result of this turn of events,                             
Lenin’s position consequently gained the support of the majority in the                                     
Bolshevik leadership. On March 3, 1918, Lenin removed Russia from World War I by                               
agreeing to the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, under which Russia lost significant                                   
territories in Europe.                                                                                         
The Russian Constituent Assembly was shut down during its first session January                               
19 and the Bolsheviks in alliance with the left Socialist Revolutionaries then                                 
relied on support from the soviets.                                                                           
The Bolsheviks had formed a coalition government with the left wing of the                                     
Socialist Revolutionaries. However, their coalition collapsed after the Social                                 
Revolutionaries opposed the Brest-Litovsk treaty, and joined other parties in                                 
seeking to overthrow the Bolshevik government. Lenin responded to these efforts                               
by a policy of wholesale persecution, which included jailing some of the members                               
of the opposing parties.                                                                                       
From early 1918, Lenin campaigned for a single individual (accountable to the                                 
state to which the workers could ask for measures) to be put in charge of each                                 
enterprise (workers having to obey him until it was changed by the state),                                     
contrary to most conceptions of workers' self-management, but absolutely                                       
essential for efficiency and expertise according to Lenin (it was argued by most                               
proponents of self-management that the intention behind this move was to                                       
strengthen state control over labour and that the failures of self-management                                 
were mostly because of lack of resources —a problem the government itself could                             
not solve as his licensing for a month of all workers of most factories proved).                               
As S.A. Smith wrote: “By the end of the civil war, not much was left of the                                 
democratic forms of industrial administration promoted by the factory committees                               
in 1917, but the government argued that this did not matter since industry had                                 
passed into the ownership of a workers’ state.”                                                           
Lenin had a certain admiration for the Irish socialist revolutionary James                                     
Connolly, and the Soviet Union was the first country to recognize the Irish                                   
Republic which fought a war of independence against Britain. He would often meet                               
with the famous revolutionary's son, Roddy Connolly and developed a close                                     
friendship with him.