Bolsheviks

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Bolshevik, Boris Kustodiev, 1920
Bolshevik, Ilya Repin, 1918

The Bolsheviks, also known in English as the Bolshevists, were a faction founded by Vladimir Lenin and Alexander Bogdanov that split from the Menshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP). The faction eventually becoming the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Their beliefs and practices were often referred to as Bolshevism.

Quotes[edit]

  • The origin of Bolshevism is inseparably linked with the struggle of what is known as Economism (opportunism which rejected the political struggle of the working class and denied the latter’s leading role) against revolutionary Social-Democracy in 1897–1902.
  • The celebrated phrase, 'so much the worse for the facts', would satisfy only the high priests of Marxism, for Marxism also has its high priests, and these priests, like all others, daily deny the principles they claim to defend. Bolshevism is a living proof of this.
  • It is a curious fact that the Russian Bolsheviks, in carrying by compulsion mass conceptions to their utmost extreme, seem to have lost not only the guidance of great personalities, but even the economic fertility of the process itself. The Communist theme aims at universal standardization. The individual becomes a function: the community is alone of interest: mass thoughts dictated and propagated by the rulers are the only thoughts deemed respectable. No one is to think of himself as an immortal spirit, clothed in the flesh, but sovereign, unique, indestructible. No one is to think of himself even as that harmonious integrity of mind, soul and body, which, take it as you will, may claim to be the Lord of Creation. Subhuman goals and ideals are set before these Asiastic millions. The Beehive? No, for there must be no queen and no honey, or at least no honey for others. In Soviet Russia we have a society which seeks to model itself upon the Ant. There is not one single social or economic principle or concept in the philosophy of the Russian Bolshevik which has not been realized, carried into action, and enshrined in immutable laws a million years ago by the White Ant.
  • The hopes which inspire communism are, in the main, as admirable as those instilled by the Sermon on the Mount, but they are held as fanatically and are as likely to do as much harm.
    • Bertrand Russell, The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism (1920), Part I, The Present Condition of Russia, Ch. 1: What Is Hoped From Bolshevism.
  • The Bolsheviks had first to perform the constructive work of capitalism before they could really begin the transformative work of socialism. As the state created industry, they decided, it would draw members of the Soviet Union’s countless cultures into a larger political loyalty that would transcend any national difference. The mastery of both peasants and nations was a grand ambition indeed, and the Bolsheviks concealed its major implication: that they were the enemies of their own peoples, whether defined by class or by nation. They believed that the society that they governed was historically defunct, a bookmark to be removed before a page was turned. To consolidate their power when the war was over, and to gain loyal cadres for the economic revolution to come, the Bolsheviks had to make some compromises. Nations under their control would not be allowed independent statehood, of course, but nor were they condemned to oblivion. Though Marxists generally thought that the appeal of nationalism would decline with modernization, the Bolsheviks decided to recruit the nations, or at least their elites, to their own campaign to industrialize the Soviet Union. Lenin endorsed the national identity of the non-Russian peoples. The Soviet Union was an apparent federation of Russia with neighboring nations. Policies of preferential education and hiring were to gain the loyalty and trust of non-Russians. Themselves subjects of one and then rulers of another multinational state, the Bolsheviks were capable of subtle reasoning and tact on the national question. The leading revolutionaries themselves were far from being Russians in any simple way. Lenin, regarded and remembered as Russian, was also of Swedish, German, Jewish, and Kalmyk background; Trotsky was Jewish, and Stalin was Georgian.
    • Timothy D. Snyder, Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. New York: Basic Books, 2010
  • The Bolsheviks presented history as a struggle of classes, the poorer making revolutions against the richer to move history forward. Thus, officially, the plan to annihilate the kulaks was not a simple decision of a rising tyrant and his loyal retinue; it was a historical necessity, a gift from the hand of a stern but benevolent Clio. The naked attack of organs of state power upon a category of people who had committed no crime was furthered by vulgar propaganda. One poster—under the title “We will destroy the kulaks as a class!”—portrayed a kulak under the wheels of a tractor, a second kulak as an ape hoarding grain, and a third sucking milk directly from a cow’s teat. These people were inhuman, they were beasts—so went the message. In practice, the state decided who was a kulak and who was not. The police were to deport prosperous farmers, who had the most to lose from collectivization. In January 1930 the politburo authorized the state police to screen the peasant population of the entire Soviet Union. The corresponding OGPU order of 2 February specified the measures needed for “the liquidation of the kulaks as a class.” In each locality, a group of three people, or “troika,” would decide the fate of the peasants. The troika, composed of a member of the state police, a local party leader, and a state procurator, had the authority to issue rapid and severe verdicts (death, exile) without the right to appeal. Local party members would often make recommendations: “At the plenums of the village soviet,” one local party leader said, “we create kulaks as we see fit.” Although the Soviet Union had laws and courts, these were now ignored in favor of the simple decision of three individuals. Some thirty thousand Soviet citizens would be executed after sentencing by troikas.
    • Timothy D. Snyder, Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. New York: Basic Books, 2010
  • The Bolshevik policy of terror was more systematic, better organized, and targeted at whole social classes. Moreover, it had been thought out and put into practice before the outbreak of the civil war. The White Terror was never systematized in such a fashion. It was almost invariably the work of detachments that were out of control, and taking measures not officially authorized by the military command that was attempting, without much success, to act as a government. If one discounts the pogroms, which Denikin himself condemned, the White Terror most often was a series of reprisals by the police acting as a sort of military counterespionage force. The Cheka and the Troops for the Internal Defense of the Republic were a structured and powerful instrument of repression of a completely different order, which had support at the highest level from the Bolshevik regime.
  • The real forces behind Bolshevism in Russia are Jewish forces, and Bolshevism is really an instrument in the hands of the Jews for the establishment of their future Messianic kingdom.
  • The Bolsheviks shared with the elites within the Russian empire a conviction that their country would eventually become the center of a new world civilization that would be both modern and just. Lenin believed that having been the first country that experienced a socialist revolution, Russia could do much to help revolutionaries in other countries – it could function as a base area and rear guard for the revolutions in the more advanced countries of Europe, which, Lenin believed, would follow soon. But in spite of the country’s social and technological backwardness, Lenin believed that the organization of its proletariat through the Communist Party had given Russia the edge – and that it could teach the lessons of the October Revolution to other proletarian parties. ‘‘To wait until the working classes carry out a revolution on an international scale means that everyone will remain suspended in mid-air,’’ Lenin said in May 1918. The very fact that the main imperialist powers had intervened against the new Soviet state in the civil war that followed the October Revolution proved to the Bolsheviks how crucial their section of the front against imperialism was.
    • Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Intervention and the Making of Our Times (2012), p. 51

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