Social Democrats (Bolsheviks and Mensheviks)

- Social Democrats. Short for All-Russian Social Democratic Workers Party) came into being in 1898. In 1898, Marxists formed the Russian Social democrats
- Aim: to achieve revolution in Russia by following the ideas of Karl Marx. Marx claimed that the critical determinant of human behavior was class struggle, a process that operated throughout history. He referred to this process as the dialectic.
- According to Marxism, the working class is the key point to the revolution.
- Russian revolutionaries were attracted to Marx. It was Marx’s ideas that gave particular relevance of the ‘great spurt’ of the 1890s.

Lenin’s impact on the SDs
- When Lenin returned from exile to western Russia in 1900, he set about turning the SDs into his idea of what a truly revolutionary party must be.
- Lenin criticized Plekhanov for being more interested in reform than revolution. He said that under Plekhanov the SDs, instead of transforming the workers into a revolutionary force for the overthrow of capitalism, were following a policy of ‘economism’ (putting the improvement of the workers’ conditions before the need for revolution). Lenin wanted living and working conditions to get worse, not better. In that way the bitterness of the workers would increase, and so drive the Russian proletariat to revolution
- For Lenin, revolution was a matter of applied science. The teachings of Karl Marx had already provided the key to understanding how revolutions operated. It was the task of those select members of the SD party who understood scientific Marxism to lead the way in Russia. The workers could not be left to themselves; they did not know enough. They had to be directed. It was the historical role of the informed members of the SD party to provide that direction. Only they could rescue the Russian working class and convert it to true socialism.

Issue 1: Fundamental Principle of the Parties:
- By replacing private with public ownership of the means of production and exchange, by introducing planned organization in the public process of production so that the well being and the many sided development of all members of society may be ensured, the social revolution of the proletariat will abolish the division of society into class and thus emancipate all oppressed humanity, and will terminate all forms of exploitation of one part of society by another
- A necessary condition for this social revolution is the dictatorship of the proletariat; that is, the conquering by the proletariat of such political power as would enable it to crush any resistance offered by the exploiters. In its effort to make the proletariat capable of fulfilling its great historical mission, international social democracy organizes it into an independent political party in o0pposition to all bourgeois parties… the Social Democratic Party will maintain a position of extreme revolutionary opposition to all the governments which may succeed one another during the course of the revolution

Issue 2: Political Freedoms
- The Russian Social Democratic Labor Party therefore sets as its immediate political task the overthrow of the tsarist autocracy and its replacement by a democratic republic whose constitution would guarantee.
  • The sovereignty of the people, i.e., the concentration of the supreme power of the state in a unicameral legislative assembly composed of representatives of the people
  • Universal, equal and direct suffrage for all citizens, male and female, who have reached the age of twenty; … a secret ballot in these elections…
  • Broad local self-government; regional self-government for localities with special conditions of life or a particular make-up of the population
  • Inviolability of person and dwelling
  • Unrestricted freedom of conscience, speech, press and assembly; the right to strike and to form trade unions
  • Freedom of movement and occupation
  • Elimination of class privileges and the complete equality of all regardless of sex, religion, race or nationality

Issue 4: The Rights of Workers
- To protect the working class from physical and moral degradation, and also to develop its capacity for the liberation struggle; the party demands:
  • Limitation of the working day to eight hours for all hired workers…
  • A complete ban on overtime work
  • A ban on night work… with the exception of those (industries) which absolutely require it for technical reasons…
  • The prohibition of the employment of children of school age…
  • A ban on the use of female labor in occupations which are harmful to the health of women; maternity leave from four weeks prior to childbirth until six weeks after birth…
  • The provision of nurseries for infants and young children in all… enterprises employing women.
  • State insurance for workers against old age and partial or complete disability through a special fund supported by a tax on capitalists…
  • The appointment of an adequate number of factory inspectors in all branches of the economy…
  • The supervision by organs of local self-government, together with elected workers’ representatives, of sanitary conditions in factory housing…
  • The establishment of properly organized health inspection in all enterprises… free medical services for workers at the employer’s expense, with wages to be paid during time of illness
  • Establishment of criminal responsibility of employers for violations of laws intended to protect workers
  • The establishment in all branches of the economy of industrial tribunals made up equally of representatives of the workers and of management
  • Imposition upon the organs of local self-government of the duty of establishing employment agencies (labor exchanges) to deal with the hiring of local and non-local labor in all branches of industry, and participation of workers’ and employers’ representatives in their administration

Bolshevik vs Menshevik

- Lenin attacked Plekhanov through his pamphlets. In one in 9102 he berated Plekhanov for continuing to seek allies among as broad a group of anti-tsarist elements as possible. Lenin insisted that this would lead nowhere. Revolution in Russia was possible only if it was organized and led by a party of dedicated, professional revolutionaries.
- There was a second congress of the RSDLP on July 30, 1903 in Brussels, Belgium. The purpose of the meeting was to unite the party, but instead it spit it into two. Plekhanov wanted to avoid confrontation but Lenin purposely made an issue of who had the right to belong to the SD party. Lenin’s aim was to force all members to choose between Plekhanov’s idea of a broad-based party, open to all revolutionaries, and his own concept of a small, tightly knit and exclusive party.
- By 1912 the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks had become two distinct, conflicting Marxist parties. Cause of the split: The abrasive personality of Lenin …

- A deep divide developed between Lenin and Julius Martov, who shared Plekhanov’s viewpoint about membership. Their quarrel was as much to do with personality as with politics. Martov believed that behind Lenin’s tactics was a fierce determination to become dictator of the party. The following was typical of their exchanges:
Martov: The more widely the title of ‘member of the party’ is spread, the better. We can only rejoice if every striker, every demonstrator, is able to declare himself a party member
Lenin: It is better that ten real workers should not call themselves party members than that one chatterbox should have the right and opportunity to be a member.

Main differences between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks

Lead by Vladimir Lenin
Lead by Julius Mortov
Means majority-class (although not)
Means minority-class, but there were more Mensheviks than Bolsheviks in the congress in Brussels
Believed that violence was necessary for the revolution to succeed. They thought that only a violent uprising in the proletariat can truly create a communist state, the rebellion to be headed by a small number of intelligent revolutionaries.
believe that reform and democracy will gradually bring Russia into communism. They thought that the formulation of a parliament and organization into different parties will allow Russia's working class to gain more power.
Revolution: Bourgeois and proletarian stages could be telescoped into one revolution
Revolution: Russia not yet ready for proletarian revolution – the bourgeois stage had to occur first
The party: A tight-knit, exclusive, organization of professional revolutionaries.
The party: A mass organization with membership open to all revolutionaries
Decision-making: Authority to be exercised by the Central Committee of the party – this was described as ‘democratic centralism’
Decision-making: Open, democratic discussion within the party – decisions arrived at by votes of members
- No co-operation with other parties
- Economism dismissed as playing into hands of bourgeoisie
- Aimed to turn workers into revolutionaries
- Alliance with all other revolutionary and bourgeoisie liberal parties
- Support of trade unions in pursuing better wages and conditions for workers (economism)
Believed that a revolutionary party should:
- Be made up of a small number of highly disciplined professional revolutionaries
- Operate under centralized leadership
- Have a system if small cells (three people) to make it less easy for the police to infiltrate them
- It was the job of the party to bring socialist consciousness to the workers and lead them through the revolution. Critics warned that centralized party like this would lead to dictatorship
Believed that the party should:
- Be broadly based and take in all those who wished to join
- Be more democratic, allowing its member to have a say in policy –making
- Encourage trade unions to help the working class improve their conditions
- Took the Marxist line that there would be a long period of bourgeois democratic government during which the workers until they were ready to take over in a socialist revolution

- Both parties supported by the working class.
  • The Bolsheviks: attracted younger, more militant peasant workers who liked the discipline, firm leadership and simple slogans
  • The Mensheviks: attracted different types of workers and members of the intelligentsia, also a broader range of people – more non – Russians, especially Jews, and Georgians.