What was the difference between Marxism and Leninism?

The stages of Marxism

The stages of Marxism involved the transition between numerous political ideologies. 

• Stage 1: Primitive Communism

During the first stage of Primitive Communism, men worked together as a community with the goal of survival. Class struggle or the issue of private property was not an issue as all men worked to perform the same task, with the same goal, in the role of hunter-gatherer. The man who was most successful in this standard role would achieve control over the others. 

• Stage 2: Imperialism

The second stage is based on the rule of the superior man who excelled in the role of hunter-gatherer. At first, he could control all resources, and own all the land, but would become increasingly threatened by outsiders, who increased in influence and power, granting them land and power, in return for protection. 

• Stage 3: Feudalism

This aristocracy creates the political structure of Feudalism. These land owners, known as aristocrats, would exploit the lower class peasants for labour, as they would produce food and goods for the aristocrats to sell through trade and industry. This creates a new class— Merchants, Businessmen, and Capitalists, who themselves, want political power.

• Stage 4: Capitalism

During the fourth stage of Capitalism, the two classes are the factory owners, merchants and the bourgeoisie, and the working class or the proletariat. The bourgeoisie owned the factories and machinery, exploiting the working class proletariat for cheap labour, producing goods which the businessmen could sell for huge profits. The terrible working and living conditions cause the proletariat to begin an uprising, and overthrow the bourgeoisie, ending the stage of capitalism. 

• Stage 5: Socialism

Marx believed it was inevitable that the proletariat would become politically aware and overthrow the capitalist government. During this stage, the proletariat would be under the influence of a dictator who would ensure that food, goods and services were distributed fairly according to people’s needs by the developed workers’ organisations. 

• Stage 6: Communism

The socialist system would last long enough for the middle class to be re-educated on the importance of equality and therefore serve as a transition to Marx’s Utopia. As everyone worked together for the common good and had ample resources, currency and the government would become worthless in the now classless society. As the ultimate stage in human history, this would spread throughout the world, and the world would become stateless, meaning there would be no conflict, no competition, and no disparity between people’s quality of life.

The Differences between Marxism and Leninism

Lenin's Government

• Government Structure

After the end of Tsarist rule and seizing power in the October Revolution, Lenin formed a political party to inform the working classes and direct their efforts against the capitalist system, he established a centralised communist government, which would rule on behalf of the working classes. The Russian people were in favour of the party being reliant on the proletariat class and peasants as Lenin put an end to capitalism and introduced Socialism, which involved the abolition of all rights of ‘inheritance’ and ownership of land, thus enhancing labour and equality. Lenin believed in “democratic centralism”. This meant that a series of professional revolutionaries were elected as the proletariat. Lenin represented the dictatorship of the proletariat who would rule Russia and rid the country of class struggles. 

When Lenin and the Bolsheviks assumed governmental responsibility, most of them accepted that they would have to use the existing economic structures until workers’ revolutions in Europe had produced other socialist governments that would give them financial assistance and support. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union led a “Socialist Republic” from 1922 to 1924 under collective leadership. The Chairman served as the Head of the Government, Congress was the main decision-making body and a small group of officials were responsible for the government. Under a democracy, the party and government structure is two different things, but under Communism, the party structure is almost identical to the government structure. The person with a higher power in the party would have a large scope of power over the whole state. However, there should be no one possessing absolute power, otherwise, it would revert to the stage of feudalism.

• The Economy of Lenin's Russia

Lenin faced significant challenges with Russia’s economic system following the October Revolution and First World War. The Russian Civil War caused Lenin to establish War Communism in Russia and there was a downturn in agrarian production, problems with transportation networks, food and fuel shortages, and inflation. This was exacerbated by the 1918 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (1918), which meant Russia had to give up the territories of Ukraine, Georgia, Finland, Poland and the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Russia had lost 10% of its land, 12.5% of its population, 16% of coal and 48% of its iron industry, and its economy was hit hard.

As a result, Lenin introduced his New Economic Policy in order to improve the power of Russia’s economy and reduce stress on the public. This involved new agricultural policies, including private land ownership, which the state only allowed because the idea of collectivisation had strong opposition. It also involved the opening up of markets to a greater degree of free trade, which resulted in the end of grain requisitioning, instead, replacing it with a fixed tax.

Under Lenin’s leadership, major changes were made to Russia's social system. Sweeping changes were made in 1917, with the Decree on Social insurance meaning there would be insurance for all poor rural workers, urban workers and wage earners, with employers being charged. Meanwhile, the Decree on Equality of Rank in the military meant that all ranks and privileges in the army were abolished. In 1919, the world’s first government department exclusively concerned with the affairs of women, called Zhenotdel, was established. Overall, labour conditions were improved and working hours were limited to a maximum of 8 hours a day. The government provided free education, especially for adults, and introduced evening classes for workers. After 1921, factories were placed under the control of elected committees of workers to avoid exploitation of workers.

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