"The Communist Manifesto," published in 1848 by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, was among the most influential writings in world history. Marx theorized that all of human history was defined by a class struggle between the ruling class and the working class. He further argued that the working class would eventually overthrow the ruling class and usher in a Utopian society in which all property was owned by society as a whole. Marx's philosophy was highly influential in the development of communism in Russia and throughout the world.
Marx taught that industrialization and capitalism were necessary steps for society to go through before the working class could arise and institute communism. Before the Communist Revolution, the Russian Empire was a monarchy, ruled by a tsar. Russia was largely an agricultural country and was in the very early stages of industrialization during Marx's lifetime. Because of this, the Russian government didn't consider Marx's writings to pose a serious threat. Marx's writings were allowed to be distributed in Russia even though they were banned in many other countries. "The Manifesto" and "Das Kapital" became influential to many of the early Russian socialists and communists.
Influence on Revolutionaries
Marx's writings had a profound impact on Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky, who would in turn promote communist ideas in Russia through publication of a Marxist periodical called "Iskra" -- "The Spark." Lenin became the most influential figure in early Russian communism. After the Russian Revolution successfully deposed the tsar's regime, Lenin's Bolshevik branch of communism rose to power and quickly assimilated or deposed other socialist groups. Lenin modeled his goals after Marx's, but on a smaller scale. Marx believed that the communist revolution would take place on an international scale. Lenin realized that he lacked the resources to make that happen and contented himself with seeing communism succeed in Russia. Lenin firmly believed Marx's idea that society must go through a period of dictatorship of the proletariat -- or working class -- before true communism could be achieved.
Trotsky and Stalin
After Lenin died in 1924, there was a brief power struggle between two of his chief lieutenants, Leon Trotsky and Josef Stalin. Trotsky believed that the world needed to be in a state of constant revolution for communism to survive. Stalin believed that communism could succeed in a single nation and that it could coexist with other forms of government until other countries' working class staged their own revolutions. In the end, Stalin came to power and his view of Leninist-Marxism prevailed in Soviet Russia. This included a small but powerful ruling party which would enforce the Communist Party's policy, brutally when deemed necessary.
Post-Stalin Russian Communism
Under Stalin, any supposed challenge to the Communist Party's leadership was dealt with severely. Political opponents were often assassinated. Religious leaders were persecuted. The Communist Party had dictated most aspects of the Soviet people's lives. The leaders who followed him, from his successor Nikita Khruschev to Mikhail Gorbachev, under whose leadership the Soviet Union departed from Communist Party rule in 1991, each made changes relaxing some of the harsher controls on the Russian people. At first, this came as an acknowledgment that Stalin had not exemplified the best ideals of Marxism, which taught that the dictatorship of the proletariat would give way to a society in which government was unnecessary. In the end, Gorbachev and other Russian leaders in the 1980s and early 1990s acknowledged that the Communist Party in general had failed to live up to its ideals as the representatives of the working class and Communist Party rule was ended.
Dell Markey is a full-time journalist. When he isn't writing business spotlights for local community papers, he writes and has owned and operated a small business.