He was born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov
and raised in the town of Simbirsk, Russia.
His father was an educator
and Vladimir Ilyich became a diligent student.
At that time, Russia was
an extremely repressive place to live.
Peasants, who were treated miserably,
needed a passport just to travel in the land of their birth.
People could be arrested
merely for attending meetings to discuss politics.
Jews were restricted to living in certain areas
and experienced the horrors of pogroms.
Under these conditions many people
developed a hatred for the monarch known as the Czar.
Vladimir Ilyich’s brother Alexander
understood that hatred.
He attempted to assassinate the Czar,
in an effort that would have benefited no one, but failed.
His life would have been spared,
if he cooperated with the authorities,
But he refused,
and Alexander Ulyanov
who dedicated his life to the liberation of his people
Vladimir Ilyich learned several lessons
from the example of his brother.
He learned not be afraid to
stand alone defending a point of view.
He also learned that only a realistic
program for action would have a chance of success,
and for the rest of his life he would dedicate
himself to bringing about this realistic program for action.
However, being a political activist in Czarist Russia
was not an easy task.
Vladimir Illyich needed to change his name
and became Lenin.
He was arrested for participating in a discussion group,
sent to prison, and exiled to Siberia.
This experience and many others led Lenin
to advocate for a new kind of political organization.
He wrote, What is to be done?
where he argued that Russia needed
a national organization with a newspaper,
and a national leadership that would coordinate activities.
Many were repulsed by this approach
arguing that Russia was already
a tightly controlled society
that needed to be freed from oppression.
However, workers understood how unions
were organized by a leadership
where everyone had a say,
but when decisions were reached, all worked to achieve common goals.
Lenin also argued that a national leadership
would help workers develop a class consciousness
where they would begin to understand
how their interests were completely opposed to capitalism.
While Lenin understood that
economic demands were necessary,
he also understood that economic concessions
were the easiest thing for the capitalists to part with.
The Bolshevik party also made political demands
supporting the rights of peasants,
and defending the right of workers to demonstrate.
In the year 1905 a revolution erupted in Russia.
The workers were not properly organized,
and the Czar drowned
the uprising in blood.
During this revolution a workers organization
called the Soviets was organized.
The Soviets were confederations of workers
designed to politically defend workers in any way necessary.
Lenin learned many things from this revolution
and wrote his pamphlet,
Two Tactics of Social Democracy
in the Democratic Revolution.
Lenin argued that the bourgeoisie
which controls most corporations
will not advance a democratic course
when a revolution erupts.
On the other hand,
workers have a distinct interest in breaking
from the past and advancing
along genuinely democratic lines.
Lenin also understood how Czarist Russia
was a prison-house of many nations,
which experienced profound discrimination,
so the Czar and the affluent could remain in power.
So Lenin wrote another pamphlet called
The Right of Nations to Self-Determination
where he argued that the Bolsheviks
needed to be the staunchest opponents of oppression.
But Lenin didn’t just write pamphlets.
While he was forced to live outside Russia
he did everything in his power to organize
the Bolsheviks and publish their newspaper.
He then attempted to explain why
the first world war was unfolding
in his pamphlet, Imperialism,
the Highest State of Capitalism.
He showed how the so called
free enterprise system
evolved into a system where
monopolies controlled industrial production.
Cartels controlled the
distribution of commodities.
Finance capital controlled
the economies of nations with loans.
This state of affairs led several
nations to go to war with one another
in order to decide which one
would control the world.
While the capitalists advocated war.
Lenin advocated support for workers and farmers
in underdeveloped nations, and immigrant workers
who seek employment where they can find it.
The first world war cost the lives
of millions in Russia,
and the economy of that nation
Revolution erupted and
a provisional government took power.
After several months,
Lenin was able to return to his homeland.
But the Provisional Government
made no real change in the lives of the people,
and continued the war
which was tearing the nation apart.
Lenin argued that the war
needed to be ended immediately
and advanced the demand
Peace, Bread, and Land.
Lenin also showed how capitalists
were reaping huge profits from the war,
and the task was not just to argue for socialism,
but to expose the plunder of the state.
Someone who didn’t like Lenin said
“A man who talks this
kind of stupidity is not dangerous.”
Working people in Russia were learning that Lenin in no way was stupid.
The Provisional Government responded
by charging Lenin with treason
and ordered his arrest
for advocating and end to the holocaust.
But the workers and farmers also
wanted peace, bread, and land,
so another revolution erupted
and the Bolsheviks took power.
On the day of the Revolution
Lenin was still in hiding disguised
as a woman wearing a wig.
After the revolution they said he could take the wig off.
That was a long day,
but in the end Lenin had one more thing to do.
He wrote a proclamation giving land
to the peasants whose families worked that land for centuries.
Lenin understood that when the Bolsheviks
adopted this proclamation
there would be no force on earth
which would remove them from power.
He then wrote, The State and Revolution
where Lenin showed how the state
was created by the capitalist system
and used as an instrument of repression against workers.
When workers take power the state will continue to exist,
but now the state will be used to repress the old order
just as the American revolutionary government
repressed British interests after that revolution.
Czarist Russia became the Union of
Soviet Socialist Republics
where each republic had its own government
working in union with all others.
At this time, Germany demanded a huge area
of the Soviet Union
and most of the Bolsheviks were unwilling
to grant this concession.
Lenin understood than a continuation of the war
could only mean disaster,
and said he would resign from the government
if the war was not ended.
Once the Bolsheviks delivered on the demands
Peace and land, they then had to deliver the bread.
Here there was another problem.
The Soviet economy was in shambles.
Russia had experienced a world war,
two revolutions, a civil war would erupt,
and fourteen nations would invade
the Soviet Union.
The entire infrastructure of the economy was destroyed.
In this vast agricultural nation
the people experienced hunger
and the Bolsheviks did everything the could to give the people food.
Some factory owners refused to pay workers their Christmas bonus.
The Bolsheviks declared that if they
did not come up with one-million rubles in twenty-four hours,
they would be sent to mine coal. The owners came up with the money.
During this period Lenin was shot by an assassin
and survived but was debilitated.
Yakov M. Sverdlov was the secretary to the party,
but died as a result of an epidemic that killed millions throughout the world.
Joseph Stalin replaced Sverdlov
and placed his personal advancement
before the revolution
and the needs of workers and farmers.
Many people of the middle classes
lost their possessions in the course of the revolution.
Stalin gave these people economic incentives
if they joined the Communist Party and did what they were told.
After everything the Soviet Union had been through,
the people were not able to overcome
this last challenge
and Stalin managed to betray the Revolution.
Even though Lenin was debilitated,
he managed to criticize
Stalin’s political course.
Only death prevented him from continuing the struggle.
But a transformation had taken place
in the Soviet Union.
The large enterprises had been confiscated
by the state.
Corporate interests no longer had power.
This change meant that
many aspects of poverty could be eliminated,
but capitalists would never cease in their attempts to regain that property.
The Soviet Union lost 27 million human beings
defending itself against fascist Germany,
which was the most powerful military nation
of its times.
But the Stalinist regime eventually collapsed
and many capitalist corporations emerged,
but most enterprises continued to be controlled
by the government.
Today the world is on the eve of another capitalist crisis.
The ideas of Lenin have never been more relevant.
Workers and farmers all over the world
can learn many invaluable lessons by studying the life of Lenin.