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Soviet Union

The Development of Radical Political Parties, 1892-1904

During the 1890s, Russia's industrial development led to a significant increase in the size of the urban bourgeoisie and the working class, setting the stage for a more dynamic political atmosphere and the development of radical parties. Because much of Russia's industry was owned by the state or by foreigners, the working class was comparatively stronger and the bourgeoisie comparatively weaker than in the West. Because the nobility and the wealthy bourgeoisie were politically timid, the establishment of working-class and peasant parties preceded that of bourgeois parties. Thus, in the 1890s and early 1900s strikes and agrarian disorders prompted by abysmal living and working conditions, high taxes, and land hunger became more frequent. The bourgeoisie of various nationalities developed a host of different parties, both liberal and conservative.

Socialist parties were formed on the basis of the nationalities of their members. Russian Poles, who had suffered significant administrative and educational Russification, founded the nationalistic Polish Socialist Party in Paris in 1892. Its founders hoped that it would help reunite a divided Poland from territories held by Austria and Germany and by Russia. In 1897 the Bund was founded by Jewish workers in Russia, and it became popular in western Ukraine, Belorussia, Lithuania, and Russian Poland. In 1898 the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party was formed. The Finnish Social Democrats remained separate, but the Latvians and Georgians associated themselves with the Russian Social Democrats. Armenians were inspired by both Russian and Balkan revolutionary traditions, and they operated in both Russia and the Ottoman Empire. Politically minded Muslims living in Russia tended to be attracted to the pan-Islamic and pan-Turkic movements that developed in Egypt and the Ottoman Empire. Russians who fused the ideas of the old Populists and urban socialists formed Russia's largest radical movement, the United Socialist Revolutionary Party, which combined the standard Populist mix of propaganda and terrorist activities.

Vladimir I. Ulianov was the most politically talented of the revolutionary socialists. In the 1890s, he labored to wean young radicals away from populism to Marxism. Exiled from 1895 to 1899 in Siberia, where he took the name Lenin, he was the master tactician among the organizers of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party. In December 1900, he founded the newspaper Iskra (Spark). In his book What Is to Be Done? (1902), Lenin developed the theory that a newspaper published abroad could aid in organizing a centralized revolutionary party to direct the overthrow of an autocratic government. He then worked to establish a tightly organized, highly disciplined party to do so in Russia. At the Second Party Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party in 1903, he forced the Bund to walk out, and he induced a split between his majority Bolshevik faction and the minority Menshevik faction, which believed more in worker spontaneity than in strict organizational tactics. Lenin's concept of a revolutionary party and a worker-peasant alliance owed more to Tkachev and to the People's Will than to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the developers of Marxism. Young Bolsheviks, such as Joseph V. Stalin and Nikolai I. Bukharin, looked to Lenin as their leader.

Data as of May 1989