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4. Lenin and the Bolshevik Party

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In this module, we continue our history of socialism by thinking about the period from the first successful socialist revolution, the Russian Revolution of 1917, to the end of the Second World War. We begin with the figure of Lenin, thinking in particular about his theory of imperialism, creation of the Bolshevik Party as an instrument of revolution, and role in the October Revolution of 1917. We then move on to think about post-revolutionary Russia, including: the ‘Red Terror’ dictatorship of the proletariat, the rise of Stalin, and the creation of Russia’s vast gulag system. Finally, we consider the international impact of the Russian Revolution which transformed Moscow into the international headquarters of socialism, before considering the importance of the Red Army’s invasion of eastern and Central Europe to the future development of global socialism.


In this course, Professor Jeremy Jennings (King’s College London) thinks about the history of socialism from its origins to the present day. We begin in the first module with the French Revolution which set the European precedent for political revolution before moving on to survey writers of the ‘utopian socialist’ tradition which emerged in the first half of the nineteenth century. In the second module, we think about the life, work, and impact of Karl Marx who theorised that capitalism would inevitably bring about its own demise in its creation of a revolutionary industrial proletariat. We then consider how the failure of this revolution to materialise caused a ‘crisis’ for socialism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and reflect on some of the theories as to why this was the case. In the fourth module, we turn to the first successful socialist revolution to occur – that of Lenin’s Bolshevik Party in October 1917 – and chart the history of Russian socialism until its huge territorial gains by the end of the Second World War. Finally, in the fifth module, we think about the global rise of socialism after 1945 in Asia, Africa, and Central America, before examining the sudden collapse of the Soviet edifice between 1989-91 and the resurgence of socialist movements today linked to a critique of globalisation, climate change, and cultural hegemony.


Jeremy Jennings is Professor of Political Theory at King's College, London. His research focuses upon the history of political thought in France. He is presently finishing a book provisionally entitled Travels with Tocqueville and is acting as co-editor of the Cambridge Encyclopedia of French Thought. A larger, long-term project is to write a history of the concept of liberty.

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APA style

Jennings, J. (2019, September 26). Socialism - Lenin and the Bolshevik Party [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Jennings, J. "Socialism – Lenin and the Bolshevik Party." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 26 Sep 2019,

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