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date: 08 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

The strategy of European Social Democracy, as embodied in the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) and set forth in the canonical writings of Karl Kautsky, was based on the aggressive use of political freedom to carry out large-scale propaganda campaigns. Lenin aimed at implanting this strategy into the uncongenial soil of Russian absolutism, which gave rise to his organizational ideas for the Social Democratic underground. After the 1905 revolution, Bolshevism was defined by a scenario for overthrowing the tsar in which the socialist proletariat would provide class leadership to the putatively democratic peasantry. Lenin responded to the crisis of European Social Democracy in 1914 by putting forward a vision of a new era of global revolutions, taken in large part from Kautsky’s writings. There is more continuity between pre-war Bolshevism and the revolution in 1917 than is commonly realized, but one crucial shift was the marginalization of political freedom.

Keywords: Lenin, Bolshevism, Kautsky, Social Democracy, SPD, Russian revolution, peasantry, underground, political freedom.

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