The Bolshevik Revolution After 100 Years

The parallels between the French Revolution of 1789 and the Bolshevik Revolution are many. Both involved an indecisive king who had unwisely involved his country in a war that saddled his country with an enormous debt. Both kings had foreign wives who faced unfair charges of disloyalty. In both cases, the revolution occurred after years of agitation by secret societies, presuming to speak for the peasants and workers.  

Once in power, the agitators used terror to stay in power. They were anti-Christian, and many Christians referred to the leaders of the revolutions as “anti-Christ.”

Vladimir Lenin, the leading Bolshevik, described Georges Danton of the French Revolution as the greatest revolutionary strategist ever, while Leon Trotsky, who created the Red Army that won the Russian Civil War, held up French revolutionary general Nicolas Carnot as his model. Trotsky’s creation of the “people’s commissars” was in emulation of the tactics of the French Jacobins.

Not surprisingly, Karl Marx, the author of the Communist Manifesto, was also an admirer of the French Revolution. His father strongly admired French radicals Voltaire and Rousseau, examples of the radicalism that permeated French society in the years leading up to the French Revolution. Marx himself copied the famous expression “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains” from French radical Jean-Paul Marat. From a French socialist in the 1840s, Louis Blanc, Marx borrowed the famous “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”

Radical subversive societies such as the Illuminati and the Jacobins have long been accused of having plotted and staged the French Revolution, before going underground and continuing to advance their radical and secular ideologies in the 1800s, eventually emerging as the internationalist communists in the mid-19th century. Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto at the behest of the shadowy League of the Just in 1848, along with his friend Friedrich Engels. But Marx did not start this group — which changed its name to the Communist League. It began several years earlier, when Marx was still drinking and getting into fistfights as a member of the Tavern Club in college.

Was this a continuation of the same radical societies that had conceived and driven the French Revolution? Suffice to say, they had basically the same beliefs. Later, these same ideas would be admired by and implemented by the Bolsheviks. If someone sees a white horse with a black spot on its side run into the woods, then observes a white horse with a black spot on its side emerge a few minutes later, one can safely presume it is the same horse.

Marx fell in with some strongly anti-Christian zealots at the university. One associate, Bruno Bauer, had written Historical Criticism of the Synoptic Gospels, in which he asserted that Jesus had never even existed. Bauer and Marx failed in launching a Journal of Atheism. Although Marx received a Ph.D. from the University of Jena in 1841, his revolutionary activities prevented him from obtaining a teaching position at any university in Germany. Fortunately for him, he met Friedrich Engels, the son of a textile manufacturer, in 1844, who helped Marx financially the rest of his life.

Basis of Bolshevik Success

In his Communist Manifesto, Marx called for the abolition of private property, the elimination of the family social unit, the overthrow of all existing governments, communal ownership of property, and the end of what he called “capitalism.” In 1862, Marx and others founded the First International, because they believed in revolution in all countries. In 1867, he wrote Das Kapital, in which he continued his attack upon religion, calling it the “opiate of the people.” By this he meant that it kept the working class dulled to the pain of their oppression by the ruling class, which he believed had created religion for that purpose.

In Das Kapital, Marx asserted that communist revolution would occur in the more industrialized nations first. According to this Marxist theory of history, there has always been a ruling class, lording it over the ruled class. Only when a nation has advanced to the most industrialized state would there be an uprising of the proletariat — the workers. After the revolution, there would then be an indefinite time period in which there would be a “dictatorship of the proletariat,” in which the people would be re-educated to share the wealth of society.

Eventually, according to Marx, the state would wither away, and true communism would emerge, in which those who had more would voluntarily share it with those who had less.

Mikhail Bakunin, a Russian anarchist who opposed Marx at the International Workingmen’s Association (often called the First International), asked what should be some obvious questions about these ideas: “If the proletariat is ruling, over whom will it rule?… If there exists a State, there is inevitable domination.… Can it really be that the entire proletariat will stand at the head of the administration?… There are about 40 million Germans. Will all 40 million really be members of the government?”

Bakunin presciently said, “They say that such a State yoke, a dictatorship, is a necessary transitional means for attaining the most complete popular liberation. So, to liberate the masses of the people they first have to be enslaved.”

Ironically, Bakunin’s own Russia would soon experience this “liberation” into slavery known as communism, with the coming of the Bolshevik Revolution.

Marx’s prediction that the workers’ uprising would happen first in one of the more industrialized countries, such as Germany or England, proved wrong. Instead, it happened in Europe’s least industrialized major nation — Russia.

To be sure, the same sort of radicals who populated universities in England and Germany were in Russia. After Czar Nicholas II unwisely involved Russia in a losing war against Japan in 1904-1905, his prestige was greatly diminished. On January 22, 1905, about 200,000 citizens approached the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, demanding better working conditions, more personal freedom, and an elected legislature.

Nicholas was not there when soldiers fired on the crowd, killing or wounding hundreds, in what became known as “Bloody Sunday.” While Nicholas privately expressed sorrow at what had happened, he rejected suggestions from his advisors to shift the blame and publicly announce the soldiers had acted without orders. He believed that would be disloyal to his own troops. After strikes swept the country, Nicholas decided to create a legislative body known as the Duma. At this point, it appeared that Russia would evolve into a constitutional monarchy, much like England. Only a minority of radicals actually favored the termination of the Romanov Dynasty.

It is unlikely that Nicholas would have been ousted, then later murdered by the Bolsheviks, had he only kept his country out of the First World War. It was against his better judgment, but his key advisors pressed him to sign an order of mobilization — which would almost certainly put Russia into a war with Germany. He told his advisors, “Think of the responsibility you are advising me to take. Remember, it would mean sending hundreds of thousands of Russian people to their deaths.”

Yet, he gave the order, and Russia went into the Great War, which caused the deaths of millions of English, French, Germans, and Russians, and led to the demise of the Romanov Dynasty, his own death, and the death of his wife and children.

It would also impose atheistic communism on his country.

By the end of 1914, the first year of the war, Russia had experienced four million casualties. Eventually the casualty list would reach over eight million. Nicholas’ country was simply not capable of fighting a modern, industrialized war, as his factories could not even equip all of his soldiers with weapons. Replacement troops often used rifles picked up from dead soldiers. Even ammunition was rationed.

Soldiers and civilians alike were short on food. By 1917, the primitive Russian transportation system, barely adequate in peacetime, simply could not fight a war against the Germans to the west and the Turks to the south, and get food from rural areas into cities such as St. Petersburg.

Facing desertions and mutiny at the front, Nicholas decided to travel to the front, so as to inspire the troops. But it was too late. (Russian soldiers were not alone in abandoning the war — many other soldiers in other countries thought it was past time to quit). In his absence from the capital, revolts against the czar began. Fearing a total collapse of the front, Nicholas’ generals pleaded with him to abdicate.

A provisional government was formed, with a reformist aristocrat, Prince Georgy Lvov, named to head it. His intention was to construct a republican government, with a constitution. As W. Cleon Skousen wrote in his classic work The Naked Communist, “The Provisional Government then launched into the double task of initiating widespread domestic reforms and, at the same time, reassembling Russia’s military strength. At the front, the troops began responding by exhibiting a new fighting spirit, and within a month remarkable progress was made in providing domestic reforms on the home front.”

Prince Lvov declared, “We should consider ourselves the happiest of men, for our generation finds itself in the happiest period of Russian history.” Sadly, this “happy period” would not last.

It should be noted that the Bolsheviks had nothing to do with the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic. In fact, Trotsky and Lenin were not even in the country.

Perhaps the fatal error of the Provisional Government, an error that would provide an opening for the Bolsheviks, was the decision to continue the war rather than seeking to end it. The government’s popularity declined rapidly, and the army’s success was soon reversed, causing Lvov to step down in early July. A “social revolutionary,” Alexander Kerensky, won the top position in the new regime. Kerensky’s actions over the next few months contributed greatly to the eventual success of the Bolsheviks.

Kerensky’s father and Lenin’s father had been friends. In fact, the younger Lenin had been a student of the elder Kerensky. But within four months, Kerensky would be driven from office by his father’s student, and the Bolshevik Revolution would impose a totalitarian dictatorship on Russia.

Russia’s Radicals

The three men most associated with that dictatorship were Lenin, Trotsky, and Joseph Stalin.

Lenin was born Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov, but he eventually took the alias Lenin and was variously called Nicolai or Vladimir Lenin. His brother Alexander was a radical at the University of St. Petersburg who plotted to construct a bomb of dynamite and strychnine-treated bullets to kill Czar Alexander III, but the plot was discovered by the police. This led to the hanging of all the conspirators, including Lenin’s brother, in May of 1887.

Photo of Leon Trotsky: AP Images