A Revolutionary Who's Who

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In the closing years of the 19th century, especially after the French loans and French alliance made
possible the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railroad, a radical intelligentsia turned to revolutionary
Marxism, not possible or relevant until the emergence of an urban proletariat.
The construction of the railroad had epochal impacts on:
*the direction of Russian foreign policy;
*the extension and expansion of the industrial revolution;
*the formation of the first Marxist party, the Social Democrats (SDs.)
The leading figures in the first Marxist movement, the Russian Social Democratic
Workers Party (SD's) were Plekhanov, Axelrod, Martov, Lenin, Trotsky, Zasulich.
Choose one of them; do some research; report back

Georgi Plekhanov (1856-1918,) not as well known in the West as Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin, was the father of Russian Marxism, indeed, Russia's first Marxist. A revolutionary from his youth and a veteran of the Narodnik movement of the 1870's, Plekhanov fled Russia--one step ahead of the Okhrana, so to speak, in 1880. In exile he founded the first Russian Marxist organization (1883,) played a role in the establishment of the Second International (1889,) and with Lenin and Martov founded the SD revolutionary journal, Iskra, in 1895. Though not a Bolshevik (which Lenin resented) Plekhanov continued to be a major revolutionary player until his death (tuberculosis) in 1918. Plekhanov died before he could incur the implacable hatred of Lenin or be purged by Stalin. He remained a hero of the Party throughout its and the Soviet Union's existence.

image source < http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=12449559 >

The revolutionary journal, Iskra (spark--symbolism intentional) first appeared in Germany in 1900. The name of the journal referenced a Pushkin poem or ode to the Decembrists, who led an ill-fated uprising in 1825.

image source < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iskra >
The other grand old man of the early Marxist movement, Paul Axelrod (1850-1928,) joined forces with Plekhanov as a founding figure of the SDs. Axelrod, like many other Russian Jews who endured systemic social and political harassments, became an early anti-tsarist activist. Like Plekhanov, he participated in revolutionary activities in his youth but rejected the blatant terror tactics of The People's Will (the group that assassinated Alexander II in 1881.) He was a brilliant theoretician; also like Plekhanov, he fled Russia in the 1880s and supported Martov and the Mensheviks in 1903, breaking with Lenin and the Bolsheviks at the Second Party Congress.

image source < http://spartacus-educational.com/RUSaxelrod.htm >

Of them all, the most important for our purposes was Lenin [Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov.] The portrait ( left) was a posthumous rendering of Lenin by G.E Shpolyanski. Read the easyweb summary (see link below) of Lenin's life; familiarize yourself with his ideas, and his influence and impact on the revolutionary movement.

< http://members.telering.at/pat/artists.htm > (sites for both of these images have flown away)

And always at Lenin's side, suffering the privations and loneliness of his exile,
was Nadezhda Krupskaya, his loyal wife (though he was not always as faithful to her as she was to him.)
Krupskaya did her best to protect Lenin from the machinations of Stalin after her husband's strokes
(shown in the middle graphic, 1922); too late, Krupskaya allied with Trotsky to prevent Stalin and his minions

from taking over the party, the state, and the nation after Lenin's death in 1924.
Krupskaya died--though not in the purges--in 1938.

http://home.mira.net/~deller/gif/krupskay.jpg (flown away, alas)
"History v. Lenin" cartoon < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9N8hsXQapjY >

left image < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nadezhda_Krupskaya >
center image < http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:KrupskayaYLenin1922PorMariaUlyanova.jpg >
right image can't find

Vera Zasulich (1849-1919) made a splash as a revolutionary in 1878 when she fired point blank into the face of General Trepov, head of the St. Petersburg police. Although acquitted, she fled to London. In Switzerland in 1883, she joined Plekhanov and Axelrod as a founding member of the Russian Marxist movement. Friends in exile with Trotsky and Martov, Zasulich joined the editorial board of Iskra after 1895, siding with the Mensheviks at the time of the schism in 1903. She did not play a major role in the events of 1917 and died in relative obscurity in 1919.

image source < http://www.library.yale.edu/slavic/microform/leaders.html >

Julius Martov ([Iuli Osipovich Tsederbaum]--1873-1923) worked closely with Lenin, Axelrod, and Plekhanov on the Iskra editorial board until the 1903 schism. Trotsky called him a "tragic figure": on the one hand, Trotsky acknowledged him as a "talented writer, a resourceful politician, ...[with]...a penetrating mind..." who nevertheless ended up as an "enormous zero" (Trotsky in World Revolution, vol. 1, 1919-1922, quoted in (http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/works/1940/profiles/martov.htm). Working side by side with Lenin (1902,) Martov was his closest companion in arms, "... the elaborate subtlety of Martov's ideas sometimes made Lenin shake his head in alarm ... political lines had not yet had time to form ... but Lenin was "hard"and Martov was "soft", and they both knew it' (Trotsky, quoted from Andy Blunden's biographies--http://home.mira.net/~andy/bs/morebios.htm). In 1903, at the Second Party Congress, Martov and the Mensheviks broke with Lenin and the Bolsheviks. Lenin never forgave him, despite their long friendship and deep affection for one another. Arrested by the CHEKA in 1918, Martov fled to Germany, where he died in 1923.

image source < http://www.library.yale.edu/slavic/microform/leaders.html >

Lenin, Martov and other young Marxists in 1897 (Lenin seated, second from right, Martov seated, far right.) Marxists all, the Russian Social Democratic Workers Party/SDs split into its rival factions in 1903. Lenin first aritculated his vision of a tightly knit, highly disciplined, conspiratorial party in 1902 in What Is To Be Done. From this definition of a centralized, elitist party, Lenin never deviated. Like Protestants and Catholics in the 16th century and Shi'ite and Sunni from the 8th-21st centuries, the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks were bitter rivals and enemies.

(Moynahan 53)

No discussion of the revolutionary era could be complete without a focus on Lev Davidovich Bronstein (1879-1940,) who adopted the revolutionary pseudonym Trotsk. Most historians agree that Trotsky's brilliance, as well as his organizational and administrative skills, contributed to the success of the Bolshevik coup and establishment of power (Oct/Nov 1917.) At first, 1903, Trotsky leaned toward the Mensheviks; in 1905, he returned to Russia to make the (failed) "dress rehearsal" revolution his. By 1917, he was Lenin's ally, though Old Bolsheviks distrusted for for his apostasy in 1903 and 1905.

image source < http://www.allrussias.com/tsarist_russia/1905_10.asp >

For more on Trotsky, a key figure and major player, see
< http://russiapedia.rt.com/prominent-russians/politics-and-society/leon-trotsky-lev-bronstein/ >

Trotsky, the "slashing sword of revolution," was everywhere in both 1905 and 1917; as Lenin's "right hand man" in 1917, the collage (right) suggests his importance and role in the February and October Revolutions.


Josef Vissarionovich Djugashvili took as his revolutionary pseudonym first "Koba" (the indomitable) and then "Stalin"--man of steel. More on Stalin follows at a later date.

(http://home.mira.net/~deller/gif/stalin.gif)--left (flown)
(http://csf.colorado.edu/psn/marx/Other/Stalin/)--right (right)
Learn more about Stalin at
< http://marxists.org/glossary/people/s/t.htm#stalin >

Other revolutionary organizations, both inside and outside of Russia, competed with Bolsheviks for influence and supporters in the pre-revolutionary period. Victor Chernov (1873-1952) founder of the Socialist Revolutionaries, probably had more name-recognition and popular support in rural Russia than Lenin did in the early days. SRs defined themselves as heirs of the populists/Narodniks who had "gone to the people" in the 1870s. Chernov, not unlike Lenin, saw terror as a useful tool to "disorganize" the tsarist regime and the hated Okhrana. It was an SR agent who assassinated Stolypin in 1911. And, it was Chernov, not Lenin or Trotsky, who won election to presidency of the Constituent Assembly that convened in January, 1918, with a democratically elected SR majority. Less than a day later, the Bolshevik Red Guard surrounded the Tauride Palace and disbanded the body.* As the Bolsheviks tightened their authority and eliminated dissent after the October/November coup, Chernov fled, first to Paris, and eventually to the United States.


*Does this event remind you of Pride's Purge or of Robespierre's actions in 1793?

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Ascher, Abraham. Russia: A Short History. Oxford: One World, 2011.

Background (Lenin's head) Sevin, V. and G. Golikov. "Vladimor Ilyich Lenin." First published by Novosti Press Agency Publishing House, Moscow, 1975. Transcribed for WW BBS & MEIA by Workers' Web ASCII Pamphlet project (Nov-Dec 1997) Online Available http://easyweb.easynet.co.uk/~rcgfrfi/ww/lenin/llw-all.htm

Barnsdale, David. "The Russian Revolution." Online Available.

Blunden, Andy. "Political Biographies." Online Available.
http://home.mira.net/~andy/polbios.htm gone

Deller, Bill. "Portrait Gallery." Online Available.
http://home.mira.net/~deller/gif/stalin.gif gone

Gimenez, Martha. "Stalin." The Marx-Engels Archive. Boulder: University of Colorado, 1999. Online Available.
http://csf.colorado.edu/psn/marx/Other/Stalin/ gone: try http://www.marxists.org/index.htm

Horvath, Patrick and Werner Horvath. "Virtual Museum of Political Art." Online Available.
http://www.medicalnet.at/horvath/artists.htm gone: try http://horvath.members.1012.at/museum.htm

Lorkovich, Tatjana. "Collection Description for the Slavic and East European Collections." Yale University Library, 1997.
Online Available. http://www.library.yale.edu/slavic/leaders.html gone: try http://www.library.yale.edu/slavic/microform/leaders.html

Lunacharsky, Anatoly, Vasilievich. "Revolutionary Silhouettes." Written 1923. Translated into English by Michael Glenny in 1967. Transcribed for the Internet by director@marx.org in March 1996. Online Available.
http://www.ex.ac.uk/Projects/meia/lunacharsky/Silhouettes/ gone: try http://www.marxists.org/archive/lunachar/

Marxist Internet Archive. Online Available.

Moynahan, Brian. The Russian Century. New York: Random House, 1994.

Pikkle, Wallis. "Vladimir Ilich Lenin." C.I.G.A.R. (Communist International Government and Rebellion.) Emporia, Kansas, 1999.
Online Available.
http://www.osprey.net/~mattmail/cigar/leaders/lenin.html gone

Robitza, Norm. "Amherst Internment Camp." The Nova Scotia Highlanders Regimental Museum. Online Available.
http://www3.sympatico.ca/nshighregmuseum/main.htm gne

Ryan, Sally. "The Trotsky Internet Archive," 1999. Online Available.

Wikipedia contributors. "Iskra." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
Online available. < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iskra >