USM Open Source History Text: The World at War: World History 1914-1945

Introduction: Vladimir Lenin, “April Theses”

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1870-1924) returned to Russia from his exile in Zurich in 1917 to participate in the unfolding events of the revolution. We know from the chapter that the Provisional Government took power in February/March of 1917 and that power was shared with the revolutionary councils of workers and soldiers, the soviets.

It is important that Lenin is coming from Zurich. Switzerland, sitting in the middle of Europe, remained independent during WWI and therefore hosted dissident intellectuals and artists from throughout Europe. These people were some of the most ardent critics of the war. Some came specifically to avoid military service. Lenin, like most communists in the Marxist vein, saw the war primarily as a struggle of social elites (governments, industry, the capitalist class) to expand their dominion at the expanse of workers and the poor in their own countries and abroad.

Throughout 1916, Lenin had been expanding on these notions of the relationship between capitalism and imperialism in what would become his most significant contribution to political philosophy, his book Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism. In the following document, Lenin joins th revolutionary struggle, staking out the Bolshevik position within the flow of revolutionary events.

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