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Bolshevik Party Meeting. Lenin is seen at right.

Bolsheviks (Russian: Большеви́к IPA [bəlʲʂɨˈvʲik], derived from bolshinstvo, "majority") were members of the Bolshevik faction of the Marxist Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) which split apart from the Menshevik faction<ref>Derived from men'shinstvo ("minority"). The split occurred at the Second Party Congress in 1903.</ref> at the Second Party Congress in 1903 and ultimately became the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.<ref>After the split, the Bolshevik party was designated as RSDLP(b) (Russian: РСДРП(б)), where "b" stands for "Bolsheviks". Shortly after seizing power in 1918 the party changed its name to the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) (РКП(б)) and was generally known as the Communist Party after that point, however, it was not until 1952 that the party formally dropped the word "Bolshevik" from its name. (See Congress of the CPSU article for the timeline of name changes.)</ref> The Bolsheviks are best known for seizing power in Russia during the October Revolution phase of the Russian Revolution of 1917, and for founding the Soviet Union, the world's first socialist state.

Bolsheviks had an extreme socialist and internationalist outlook, often referred to as Bolshevism, and were opponents of the Russian traditional statehood and the Russian Orthodox Church.<ref>Leon Trotsky frequently used the terms "Bolshevism" and "Bolshevist" after his exile from the Soviet Union to differentiate between what he saw as true Leninism and the regime within the state and the party which arose under Stalin. However, "Bolshevism" today is commonly associated with the Stalinist regime which existed in the Soviet Union.</ref> The party was founded by Vladimir Lenin, who also led it in the October Revolution.


[edit] Creation of the Bolshevik Party (1903–1916)

[edit] The 1903 Split

At the Second Congress of the RSDLP, held in Brussels and London in August 1903, Lenin advocated limiting party membership to a small core of professional revolutionaries, leaving sympathizers outside the party, and instituting a system of centralized control known as the democratic centralist model. Julius Martov, until then a close friend and colleague of Lenin's, 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 travellers. The two had disagreed on the issue as early as April-May 1903, but it wasn't until the Congress that their differences became irreconcilable and split the party <ref>See Israel Getzler. Martov: A Political Biography of a Russian Social Democrat, Cambridge University Press, 2003 (first edition 1967), ISBN 0-521-52602-7 p.78</ref>. Although at first the disagreement appeared to be minor and inspired by personal conflicts, e.g. Lenin's insistence on dropping less active editorial board members from Iskra or Martov's support for the Organizing Committee of the Congress which Lenin opposed, the differences quickly grew and the split became irreparable.

[edit] 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), based on the fact that Lenin's supporters narrowly defeated Martov's supporters on 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 1904–1906 and then again after 1917.[citation needed]

[edit] Beginning of the 1905 Revolution (1903–1905)

The two factions were in a state of flux in 1903–1904 with many members changing sides. The founder of Russian Marxism, Georgy Plekhanov, who was at first allied with 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 converged and he came to believe that Lenin was right on the issue of the party.

The lines between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks hardened in April 1905 when the Bolsheviks held a Bolsheviks-only meeting in London, which they call the Third Party Congress. The Mensheviks organized a rival conference and the split was thus formalized.

The Bolsheviks played a relatively minor role in the 1905 revolution, and were a minority in the St. Petersburg Soviet of Workers' Deputies led by Trotsky. The less significant Moscow Soviet, however, was dominated by the Bolsheviks. These soviets became the model for the Soviets that were formed in 1917.

[edit] Attempts to Re-unite with the Mensheviks (1906–1907)

As the Russian Revolution of 1905 progressed, Bolsheviks, Mensheviks and smaller non-Russian social democratic parties operating with the Russian Empire attempted to reunify at the Fourth (Unification) Congress of the RSDLP held at Folkets hus, Norra Bantorget in Stockholm, April 1906. With the Mensheviks striking an alliance with the Jewish Bund, the Bolsheviks found themselves in a minority. However, all factions retained their respective factional structure and the Bolsheviks formed the Bolshevik Center, the de-facto governing body of the Bolshevik faction with the RSDLP. At the next, 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.

[edit] Split between Lenin and Bogdanov (1908–1909)

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 and his supporters Grigory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev argued for participating in the Duma while Lenin's deputy philosopher Alexander Bogdanov, Anatoly Lunacharsky, Mikhail Pokrovsky and other argued that the social democratic faction in the Duma should be recalled. The latter became known as recallists ("otzovists" in Russian). A smaller group within the Bolshevik faction demanded that the RSDLP central committee should give its sometimes unruly Duma faction an ultimatum, demanding complete subordination to all party decisions. This group became known as "ultimatists" and was generally allied with the recallists.

With a majority of 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 Empiriocriticism (1909)<ref>First published in Moscow in May 1909 by Zveno Publishers, available online</ref>, assaulting Bogdanov's position and accusing him of philosophical idealism <ref>See Alan Woods. Bolshevism: The Road to Revolution, Wellred Publications, 1999, ISBN 1-900007-05-3 Part Three: The Period of Reaction available online</ref>. In June 1909, Bogdanov was defeated at a Bolshevik mini-conference in Paris organized by the editorial board of the Bolshevik magazine "Proletary" and expelled from the Bolshevik faction<ref>English language excerpts from the resolution are quoted in A Documentary History of Communism in Russia, ed. Robert V. Daniels, UPNE, 1993, ISBN 0-87451-616-1 p.33</ref>.

[edit] 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. Lenin was adamantly 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 Vienna-based Pravda a party-financed 'central organ'. Kamenev, Trotsky's brother-in-law, was added to the editorial board from the Bolsheviks, but the unification attempts failed in August 1910 when Kamenev resigned from the board amid mutual recriminations.

[edit] Forming a Separate Party (1912)

The factions permanently broke off relations in January 1912 after the Bolsheviks organized 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, which they called RSDLP (Bolshevik).

Although the Bolshevik leadership decided to form a separate party, convincing pro-Bolshevik workers within Russia to follow suit proved difficult. When the first meeting of the Fourth Duma was convened in late 1912, only one out of six Bolshevik deputies, Matvei Muranov, (the other one, Roman Malinovsky, was later exposed as a secret police agent) voted to break away from the Menshevik faction within the Duma on 15 December 1912.<ref>Robert B. McKean, St. Petersburg Between the Revolutions: workers and revolutionaries, June 1907-February 1917, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1990, pp. 140-1.</ref> The Bolshevik leadership eventually prevailed and the Bolsheviks formed their own Duma faction in September 1913.

Bolsheviks with Lenin in the middle.

[edit] Political Philosophy

The Bolsheviks believed in organizing the party in a strongly centralized hierarchy that sought to overthrow the Tsar and achieve power. Although the Bolsheviks were not completely monolithic, they were characterized by a rigid adherence to the leadership of the central committee, based on the notion of democratic centralism. The Mensheviks favored open party membership and espoused cooperation with the other socialist and some non-socialist groups in Russia. Bolsheviks generally refused to co-operate with liberal or radical parties (which they labeled "bourgeois") or even eventually other socialist organizations, although Lenin sometimes made tactical alliances.

Image:1919-Trotsky Lenin Kamenev-Party-Congress.jpg
Left to right: Trotsky, Lenin, and Kamenev

During the First World War, the Bolsheviks took an internationalist stance that emphasized solidarity between the workers of Russia, Germany, and the rest of the world, and broke with the Second International when its leading parties ended up supporting their own nations in the conflict.

[edit] Bolsheviks during the 1917 Revolution

See also Russian Revolution of 1917

[edit] July Days

In early July, widespread discontent in St. Petersburg led to militant demonstrations calling for the overthrow of the Provisional Government. The Bolshevik leadership initially opposed this as premature, but ended up leading the demonstrations, hoping to prevent any bloodshed. They felt compelled to do this to win the trust of the workers, and also in recognition of the fact that many of the Bolshevik rank and file were already organising and supporting the demonstrations. Troops loyal to the Provisional Government violently suppressed the demonstrations. The ensuing crackdown resulted in the Kerensky government ordering the arrest of the Bolshevik leadership on July 19. Lenin escaped capture, went into hiding, and wrote State and Revolution, which outlined his ideas for a socialist government.

The repression against the Bolsheviks ceased when the Kerensky government was threatened by a rebellion led by General Kornilov, and offered arms to those who would defend St. Petersburg against Kornilov. The Bolsheviks enlisted a 25,000 strong militia to defend St. Petersburg from attack, and reached out to Kornilov's troops, urging them not to attack. The troops stood down and the rebellion fizzled. Kornilov was taken into custody. However, the Bolsheviks did not return their arms, and Kerensky succeeded only in strengthening the Bolshevik position.

During this period, a situation of dual power developed. While the legislature and provisional government were controlled by Kerensky in coalition with the Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionary Party, the workers' and soldiers' soviets were increasingly under the control of the Bolsheviks, who now had what amounted to their own private army.

[edit] October Revolution

Image:Ska 018.jpg
Bukharin, Zinoviev, Kamenev
The Bolshevik Central Committee spent September and October of 1917 debating whether they should use parliamentary methods or whether they should seize power by force. With Lenin in hiding in Finland, the parliamentary line — advocated by Kamenev, Zinoviev and Rykov against Trotsky — at first prevailed. The Bolsheviks participated in the quasiparliamentary bodies convened by the Provisional Government, the Democratic Conference and the smaller, more permanent Pre-Parliament.

Lenin sent numerous letters to the Central Committee and to St. Petersburg party activists urging them to abandon the parliamentary path and overthrow the Provisional Government by means of an insurrection. The balance of power within the Central Committee shifted in favor of the insurrection in early October, resulting in the Bolshevik delegation withdrawing from the Pre-Parliament on October 7 1917 (Old Style).<ref>See the excerpts from the Central Committee meeting minutes in V. I. Lenin. Toward the Seizure of Power: Part One, International Publishers, 1932 (Kessinger Publishing reprint) ISBN 1-4191-6291-8 p.302</ref>

On October 10, the Bolshevik Central Committee decided in favor of an uprising, with only Zinoviev and Kamenev voting against it. The latter took the unusual step of making their objections public, which infuriated Lenin, who demanded their expulsion from the party for breaching party discipline. The Central Committee also established a smaller Politburo to prepare for the uprising, although it's not clear whether it was ever functional (Trotsky later claimed that it never met.) This Politburo was dissolved on October 25, 1917, once the Bolsheviks had taken power in the October Revolution. A permanent Politburo was not established until March 1919, during the Russian Civil War, when decisions had to be made quickly and many Central Committee members were away from the new capital, Moscow.

When Kerensky moved against the Bolsheviks on October 22 by ordering the arrest of their Military Revolutionary Committee, banning the Bolshevik newspaper, and cutting off telephone lines to the Bolshevik headquarters in the Smolny Institute, Trotsky urged that the Bolsheviks' decision to overthrow the government be put into action. Lenin concurred, and on October 24, orders were issued for the Bolsheviks' Red Guards to occupy key locations in the city and surround the Winter Palace where the Provisional government had its headquarters. The uprising was a success, and Bolshevik-led forces were in control of the capital by October 26.

On October 25-26, 1917, the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets met and established a new government called the Council of People's Commissars or Sovnarkom. Lenin became the head (Chairman) of the new government, Trotsky became the first People's Commissar for foreign affairs and other Bolshevik leaders took over other government ministries, which were known as "commissariats" until 1946.

[edit] Bolshevik Party after the 1917 Revolution

In March 1918, the Seventh Party Congress of the Social Democratic Labor Party (Bolsheviks) met and changed the name of the party to the All-Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) to differentiate it from the Mensheviks and other remaining fractions of the RSDLP.

After the name change, the party was increasingly known as the "Communist Party" with the name "Bolshevik" gradually becoming a reference to the party's earlier days. The word "Bolshevik" was retained when the party changed its name to the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) at the Fourteenth Party Congress in December 1925 to emphasize the fact that the party included not only Russian but also non-Russian segments within the recently formed Soviet Union. It was finally dropped from the party's formal name in October 1952 when the Nineteenth Party Congress changed the party's name to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Parallel with the gradual removal of the word "Bolshevik" from the party's name, Joseph Stalin conducted the Great Purge in which most leaders of the original Bolshevik Party (including all surviving members of the original Politburo) were expelled, imprisoned or killed. For Leon Trotsky, the only one of the old Bolshevik leaders who survived long enough in foreign exile to found a lasting political and ideological tradition of his own, "Bolshevik" and "Stalinist" came to be totally antithetical terms, tantamount to light and darkness, Good and Evil.

Trotskyists up to the present still tend to regard "Bolshevik" as a positive term and indeed the highest form of praise. Some of them use the word "Bolshevik" in the names of their parties or factions as well as their newspapers.

For his part, Stalin never accepted this dichotomy, and even though he gradually abandoned the name, he and subsequent Soviet leaders always claimed that they continued the work of the Bolsheviks. The term "Bolshevik" was also used interchangeably with the term "Communist" by many anti-Communists who were critical of the Soviet Union throughout its existence.

[edit] Derogatory Usage of "Bolshevik"

  • During the days of the Cold War in the United Kingdom, labour union leaders and other leftists were sometimes derisively described as "Bolshie." The usage is roughly equivalent to the term " Red" or "Pinko" in the United States during the same period. However these days it is often used to describe a difficult or rebellious person e.g:"Timothy, don't be so bolshie!" An alternate spelling is "bolshy". (Collins Mini Dictionary 1998)
  • In Israel during the 1950s and the 1960s, opponents of then Prime Minister David Ben Gurion sometimes accused him of being "a Bolshevik". Although Ben Gurion was a staunch anti-Communist, the idea was that his party Mapai had a stranglehold on political and social life and no opposition party had a real chance to win an election until the 1970s.
  • In present-day Israel, the term is used to accuse any politician, of whatever political colouring, of authoriatarian or tyrannical behaviour. During the 2005 evacuation of the Gaza Strip, PM Ariel Sharon was frequently called "a bolshevik" by his opponents.
See also Jewish Bolshevism

[edit] References


[edit] See also

[edit] External links

cy:Plaid Bolsiefic da:Bolsjevik de:Bolschewiki es:Bolchevique eo:Bolŝeviko eu:Boltxebike fr:Bolchevik he:בולשביקים id:Bolshevik it:Bolscevismo ka:ბოლშევიკი ko:볼셰비키 lt:Bolševikas nl:Bolsjewiek ja:ボリシェヴィキ no:Bolsjevik nn:Bolsjevik pt:Bolchevique ro:Bolşevic ru:Большевик simple:Bolshevik sk:Boľševik sl:Boljševiki fi:Bolševikit sv:Bolsjevik tr:Bolşevik uk:Більшовики ur:بالشویزم zh:布尔什维克


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