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The Communist Manifesto: the Ideology that LED to the End of Monarchy in Russia

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Essential to determining whether political ideologies led to the end of Tsardom is to define what one is. A political ideology is ambiguous in its very nature as it can be tailored to fit the individuals ideal of political ideology, an individual can also draw upon multiple ideologies to establish where they themselves fit along the political spectrum. Ideology once meant the science of ideas (Tracy 1796) (as coined by Antoine Destutt de Tracy in the Age of Enlightenment) and had the basis of grammar, logic, education, and morality (Kennedy 1979). In the modern world, it seems as though the original definition of ideology has been lost and a better-suited definition could now be a set of beliefs, ideals, and doctrines that explain how society should be governed – often in a scientific and logical manner. The political ideologies that led to the end of Tsardom simplify to Marxism and Liberalism; both forms of opposition were formed due to the political ideology of the Tsarist regime. [Tracy, D. D. (1796). Memoire sur la Faculte de Pense. l’Institut national des sciences et des arts.], [Kennedy, E. (1979). ‘Ideology’ from Destutt De Tracy to Marx.].

This ambiguity and interpretability presented by the definition of political ideology is partly the reason as to why political ideologies did undoubtedly lead to the end of Tsardom. Wagner suggests that an ideology cannot be the sole factor in the collapse of a state, such as Tsardom, but that it is a critical and dominant variable (Wagner 2011). This view is largely accepted among historians. However, when you consider the implications of removing certain ideologies e.g. Marxism, Liberalism, Leninism, Populism, Autocracy from the context of the Russian Revolution, then the prospect of a revolution is simply fictional and thus it cannot be challenged that ideologies led to the end of Tsardom. [Wagner, M. L. (2011). POLITICAL IDEOLOGY AND REVOLUTIONARY THEORY: CASE STUDIES OF RUSSIA AND PERU COMPARED. San Diego State University.]

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As the Bolsheviks prepared to overthrow the existing Tsarist regime on October 25th, 1917, Lenin, the leader of the revolutionary movement, wrote in ‘To the Citizens of Russia!’: The cause for which the people have fought, namely, the immediate offer of a democratic peace, the abolition of landed proprietorship, workers’ control overproduction, and the establishment of Soviet power—this cause has been secured. Long live the revolution of workers, soldiers, and peasants! (Lenin 1917) [Lenin, V. (1917). To the Citizens of Russia! Robochy I Soldat, No.8 No. 1-2. ].

This exclamation to the citizens of Russia directs us to understand how the imminent end of Tsardom was brought about by political ideologies as the achievements that Lenin boasts are the aims of a Marxist revolution. Marxism as an ideology focuses on socioeconomic equality for all after a revolution to restructure private property and therefore the means of production and distribution (Marx and Engels 1848; Webb 2006;). This revolution is brought about by the awakening of the proletariat against the bourgeoise ruling class. In Karl Marx’s and Frederic Engels, the Communist Manifesto, it is suggested that: [Marx, K., & Engels, F. (1882). The Communist Manifesto. Russia.] [Webb, Adam. 2006. The Calm Before the Storm? Revolutionary Pressures and Global Governance. International Political Science Review 27.].

‘With its birth [the proletariat] begins its struggle with the bourgeoisie. At first…by individual laborers, then by the workplace of a factory, then by the operatives of one trade, in one locality, against the individual bourgeois who directly exploits them’. (Marx and Engels 1882). [Marx, K., & Engels, F. (1882). The Communist Manifesto. Russia.].

The implied inevitable clash of classes leads us to believe that the Russian Revolution seems to have undoubtedly been caused by Marxist political ideologies. The 1905 workers’ strikes, which became increasingly militant and organized, can be partly attributed to the mobilization by the growing influence of the socialist party, but also through the increased class consciousness (Figes 2014). This movement, which added to the increasing state of revolution within Russia, culminated in the general strike. A mass movement by the proletariat and for the proletariat as critical to be a Marxist revolution is for any such movements to be incited by the proletariat themselves. The general strike, which began on September 20th with workers in the printing press and included students, railway workers, bank and office employees, lecturers, hospital staff, transport workers, teachers, and lecturers was the first clear demonstration of a ‘self-conscious’ movement by the workers of Russia – a truly Marxist example. Marxism was appealing to the people of Russia. Communist and social democratic activist, Angela Balabanoff commented in her memoir that she ‘found in [Marxism] exactly what I needed at the time, a philosophy of method that gave continuity and logic to the processes of history and that endowed my own ethical aspirations, as well as the revolutionary movement itself, with the force and dignity of a historical imperative’. (Balabanoff 1938) Balabanoff articulates what it was about Marxism that fuelled the fire that led to the end of Tsardom. It attempted to explain the history and future of Western civilization, not simply in a temporary manner, but it an intellectual and scientific manner. One that could be understood and imagined. The words of Marx and Engels at the very beginning of The Communist Manifesto, ‘The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles’ (Mark and Engels 1882) became a political weapon for people like Angela Balabanoff and those in the 1905 strikes as it was believed, due to Marxism, that a clash would bring about a new system and Russia’s Tsarist regime would be replaced (K. D. Qualls 2003) [Figes, O. (2014). Revolutionary Russia, 1891-1991. Penguin Group.] [Balabanoff, A. (1938). My Life as a Rebel. London.] [Mark, K., & Engels, F. (1882). The Communist Manifesto. Russia] [Qualls, Karl D. The Russian Revolutions: The Impact and Limitations of Western Influence. Dickinson College Faculty Publications, Paper 8, 2003.].

Whilst it is almost enticing to accept that the scientific ideology Marx presented did lead to the revolutionary state in Russia that brought about the end of Tsardom, it is equally as possible that it did not. We must consider if it can really be accepted that political ideologies (like Marxism) contributed to the revolution when the outcomes that define that political ideology are not present. As previously stated, Marxism as an ideology focuses on socioeconomic equality for all after a revolution to restructure private property and therefore the means of production and distribution (Marx and Engels 1848; Webb 2006), yet it could be said that the outcome of the Revolution was merely part of a cycle as Culpin and Darby suggest. After the revolution, ‘the system was the same…an autocratic, oppressive, bureaucratic and militaristic police state under the Tsars, was replaced by an autocratic, oppressive, bureaucratic and militaristic police state under the Bolsheviks’ (Darby, 1998). After the revolution, power was meant to be transferred to the people, but power remained with those in charge. Therefore, if the outcome of a supposedly Marxist revolution is not the Marxist outcome it cannot be called a Marxist revolution, and consequently, that political ideology was not contributing to the fall of Tsardom. [Marx, K., & Engels, F. (1882). The Communist Manifesto. Russia; Webb, Adam. 2006. The Calm Before the Storm? Revolutionary Pressures and Global Governance. International Political Science Review 27], [Darby, G. Russian Revolution, The Paper: Tsarism to Bolshevism, 1861-1924. Longman, 1998.]

Furthermore, Marxism cannot be seen as aiding the fall of Tsardom as Marx believed a revolution of the working people would come when capitalism was at its peak. Although Tsarist Russia was modernizing at a rapid rate thanks to projects like the trans-Siberian railway, industrialization was incomplete and in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Russian capitalism had only just begun to rise (Kondorskiy 2017). According to Marx, a revolution should not have been able to happen at this time in Russia. As it was only when the capitalist bourgeoise class was exploiting the proletariat class, at the height of capitalism, that resentment would rise, and an organic revolution would form to overthrow this system. Therefore, whilst there is an argument to be had for the fall of Tsardom to be contributed to by Marxist political ideologies, it could also be argued that the revolution was not a Marxist revolution due to its timing and its consequences. [Kondorskiy, B. (2017). An attempt to analyze the development of capitalism in Russia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries from the perspective of the revolutionary period].

However, the Russian Revolution may not have followed the Marxist chronology of a revolution of being at peak capitalism, but that does not mean that it was not inspired by it. Simply because the proletariat did not finish the revolution in the position that Marx suggested does not mean that it was not inspired by the Marxist political ideology. Moreover, crucial to the definition of an ideology is the ambiguity and interpretability of it. The political ideology that Marx presented in The Communist Manifesto did inspire the revolution that led to the end of Tsardom, this can be seen through people like Angela Balabanoff, so the fact that the revolution did not end how Marx predicated only highlights how ideology can be interpreted differently to suit the needs of the individual, group or class. Whether or not the revolution advanced as Marx had imagined, it was unquestionably influenced by him, and thus political ideologies led to the fall of Tsardom. How did the Marxist ideology lead to the fall of Tsardom? As Webb states,

If the Revolution had not been what Marx prophesized, then at what point did the ideology develop into something else altogether? As Daniels suggests, it was after Engels’s death in 1885 that ‘Marxism was subject to the most diverse interpretations and profound metamorphoses’ (Daniels 2007). Whilst the interpretations that the population collectively drew is important for the end of Tsardom, arguably the most critical is the interpretation of Lenin. ‘Given his [Lenin] views toward the proletariat, bourgeoisie, and capitalism, the socialist revolution is not only necessary but an expected part of social and historical development’. [Daniels, R. (2007). The Rise and Fall of Communism in Russia. Yale University Press, p.19], [Wagner, M. L. (2011). POLITICAL IDEOLOGY AND REVOLUTIONARY THEORY: CASE STUDIES OF RUSSIA AND PERU COMPARED. San Diego State University].

Many historians when talking about ideologies, in relation to the collapse of Tsardom, do so as a revolutionary ideology rather than a political ideology. However, when considering how revolutionary the political views being expressed in opposition to the Tsarist regime were, the difference between revolutionary ideology and political ideology is non-existent and they become the same thing. One such ideology was the principle and most obvious political ideology which contributed to the fall of Tsardom is the autocracy that the Tsar used to fulfill an absolute rule over Russia.

Whatever it was that brought down the 300-year Romanov dynasty would have to be a force never seen before. The conflict between Lenin and the tsar who wanted to have an autocratic rule.

Russia was modernizing extremely rapidly, but its political system was not. Unlike most nations, normal middle-class families were not allowed any political expression at all, it became the norm that the eldest son would enter the revolutionary, radical political sect.

It was not only the revolutionary political ideologies themselves that contributed to the end of Tsardom but also the response (and lack of response) from the Tsar.

Bibliography

  1. Balabanoff, Angelica. 1938. My Life as a Rebel. London.
  2. Daniels, R. 2007. The Rise and Fall of Communism in Russia. Yale University Press.
  3. Darby, G. 1998. Russian Revolution, The Paper: Tsarism to Bolshevism, 1861-1924. Longman.
  4. Figes, Orlando. 2014. Revolutionary Russia, 1891-1991. Penguin Group.
  5. Kennedy, Emmet. 1979. “Ideology’ from Destutt De Tracy to Marx’. JSTOR. www.jstor.org/stable/2709242.
  6. Kondorskiy, Boris. 2017. An attempt to analyze the development of capitalism in Russia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries from the perspective of the revolutionary period.
  7. Lenin, Vladimir. 1917. ‘To the Citizens of Russia!’ Robochy I Soldat No. 8 No. 1-2. (Robochy I Soldat No. 8 No. 1-2.).
  8. Mark, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. 1882. ‘The Communist Manifesto’. Russia.
  9. Perry, Matt. 2002. Marxism and History. New York: Palgrave Press.
  10. Qualls, Karl. 2003.
  11. Qualls, Karl D. 2003. The Russian Revolutions: The Impact and Limitations of Western Influence. Dickinson College Faculty Publications, Paper 8.
  12. Tracy, Destutt De. 1796. ‘Memoire sur la Faculte de Pense’. Vol. 1. no. 2. l’Institut national des sciences et des arts.
  13. Wagner, Mathew L. 2011. ‘POLITICAL IDEOLOGY AND REVOLUTIONARY THEORY: CASE STUDIES OF RUSSIA AND PERU COMPARED’. San Diego State University.
  14. Webb, Adam. 2006. The Calm Before the Storm? Revolutionary Pressures and Global Governance. International Political Science Review 27.

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