This week we will look at the origins of the Bolsheviks…the foundation of the Communist Party. In July of 1903, a Russian-Social-Democratic congress convened in London. Forty-three delegates came from Russia as well as from various groups of Russian exiles in Western Europe. Lenin started it off with a moderate and impartial attitude, but as the discussions continued he was horrified to discover that the congress was moving toward pacifistic socialism rather than militant revolution. Lenin immediately gathered his friends and followers around him. He split the congress wide open on the issue of whether party membership should be limited to hard-core revolutionists or broadened to include anyone who felt sympathy for the movement. In this dispute Lenin rallied around him a majority of the congress and used this as a basis for calling those who supported him “Bolsheviks” (which comes from a Russian word meaning ‘majority’), while those who opposed him were called “Mensheviks” (which is taken from the Russian word meaning ‘minority’). This is an illustration of Lenin’s absolute determination to exploit every situation so as to make it a tool to further his overall political strategy. We see this same strategy used by some of today’s politicians. At this particular congress, however, Lenin’s victory was short-lived. Several groups combined their strength against him and before long he found himself representing the minority view on most matters. Nevertheless, Lenin continued calling his followers ‘the Bolsheviks’. (Persistence is a trait we will see in the Communist/liberal/progressive movement not just at this instance but throughout its history. The will of the people matters not as long as the will of the movement stays in the mix. Some might call this patience.)
One of those who initially opposed Lenin was a young, twenty-three-year-old zealot named Leon Trotsky. At this congress of 1903 they stood in opposite camps, but at a later date they would join forces. Lenin and Trotsky came from similar backgrounds. Both had come from substantial families, both had been well educated, both had become disillusioned in government and religion, and had engaged in revolutionary activity. Both had served sentences in Siberia. Trotsky had been born with the name Lev Bronstein. His father was a rich peasant…Kulak. His family was a fugitive family from the Tsar’s anti-Jewish campaign. They found a place to settle near the Black Sea where there was more religious tolerance. However, as the family prospered, he dropped out of the local synagogue and stopped observance of the Jewish Sabbath. Finally his father came out in favor of atheism. When Trotsky went away to school, he carried along with him these sympathies for materialism he had gained from his father. By the time he finished school he was showing strong signs of becoming a political radical. After a few years he became completely alienated from his family. It was not difficult for Trotsky to find a place in his mind for Marxism especially when he was taught Marxism by an attractive young women six years his senior whom he later married. Her name was Alexandra Lvovna. He was only nineteen when he decided to help organize the South Russian Workers’ Union. His assignment was the task of printing an illegal newspaper. This led to his arrest. He spent three months in solitary confinement (just like the protestors at the Capitol in 6 January 2021) after a series of assignments to various prisons. He ended up in Siberia, along with his wife, as both were sentenced to four years in that cold, barren region. Trotsky escaped in 1902 finding his way to the Siberian railroad where he used fake identification to pass himself off as ‘Trotsky’, the name of his late jailer. He used this name the rest of his life. With help of Marxist comrades he made his way to London, where he was later joined by his wife and two children. Upon meeting Lenin they struck it off well. However, Trotsky got to see enough of Lenin’s cold, blue-steel razor edge mind that it made him apprehensive about Lenin’s leadership. Lenin was ruthless in attaining and maintaining leadership. Trotsky had strong feelings for his respected members of the party in 1903. This was in sharp contrast to his position in 1917-1922 when he personally supervised the ruthless liquidation of many hundreds of comrades whom he suspected of deviating from established party policy.
By 1903, the political situation in Russia had become explosive. Not realizing it but Tsar Nicholas II was to become the last of the Tsars. Nicholas II plunged Russia into a senseless war with Japan in 1903. Almost immediately he found the Russian forces suffering humiliating defeat. This war lasted a little over two years and as the war came to an end, the economic and political pressure on the Russian people split the seams of the Empire asunder. Government officials were assassinated, mass demonstrations were held, and a general strike was called which eventually idled more than 2,500,000 workers. The Tsar used every form of reprisal available, but mass arrest, mass imprisonment, and mass executions failed to stem the tide. The entire population was up in arms. An event occurred on Sunday, January 22, 1905, that came to be known as the Winter Palace Massacre. The marchers, while large in number, were peaceful for the most part asking only that labor conditions be improved. The Tsar did not come out to welcome them. Instead the marchers found themselves surrounded by massed troops. Without a command to disperse, the Tsar’s troops opened fire on the crowd. Marchers tried to run for their lives fleeing in terror. The troops continued firing until the crowd completely dispersed. Approximately 500 were killed outright and another 3,000 were wounded. This became known in Russian history as “Bloody Sunday”. Already embittered by the war with Japan, some responded with violence, most retaliated by paralyzing the Tsar’s wartime economy…the people stopped working. The Tsar was deeply frightened and agreed to hear the people’s demands:
> Protection of the individual, allowing freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and the right to form unions.
> The right of the people of all classes to vote for the Duma (the people’s assembly).
> The automatic repeal of any law enacted by the Tsar without the consent of the people’s assembly.
> The right of the people’s assembly to pass on the legality of any decrees issued by the Tsar.
These demands became known as “The October Manifesto”. Much of the demands are almost the same as our founders made of King George III. Such a compromise, though, infuriated the Marxists. They wanted the revolution to continue until the Tsar was forced to surrender unconditionally and abdicate. Not until then could they set up a Communist dictatorship. (Shades of what we see going on in America today.) Trotsky hastened to Russia when the uprising started, stood before a crowd of people celebrating the Tsar’s acceptance of the Manifesto, and tore up a copy of it. (Sort of like a government official tearing up a copy of the State of the Union address a couple of years ago.) Trotsky immediately went to work with the Marxists setting up the machinery for a renewed revolution. Unions became one of the primary tools. In November of 1905 Lenin arrived to join Trotsky in starting a ‘second revolution’. After 60 days the Marxist movement collapsed. Trotsky was caught and arrested and Lenin fled in the night to safer regions. Trotsky was exiled to Siberia for an indefinite period, but he never reached there. He made a daring mid-winter escape, crossing the Ural Mountains and making his way to Finland to join Lenin and several other Marxists. It was while in Finland that Trotsky worked out his theory of “Perpetual Revolution”…this theory advocated a continuous Communist attack on all existing governments until they were overthrown and the dictatorship of the proletariat established.
You may ask why I spend so much time discussing the history of Communism in a commentary on “Politics and the Church”? It is important that we as Christians and citizens of the United States understand the methodology and the patience exhibited by a group set to destroy democracy, freedom, and Christianity. It won’t just go away. We must ask God for the strength, fortitude, and guidance to fight this satanic force. The liberal/progressive/communist forces want to control this world and will stop at nothing to do so. We have to be more dedicated than they are.
Next week we will look at the impact of an obscure delegate from a small Bolshevik group in Transcaucasia. In his quest for power he had murdered as many of his own countrymen as did his political enemy, Hitler. This man is known as Stalin.
“Christianity is not passive. Prayer is both communion with God and confrontation with the devil. Living out your faith is about sharing God’s truth and exposing the enemy’s lies.” Out of the Cave by Chris Hodges