Russian socialists and their relationship to the war played a key role in setting the stage for revolution in Russia. Lenin, the leader of the radical Bolsheviks, was an outlaw and actually lived in Galicia and Switzerland at the beginning of World War I. He carried on a lively debate with the more moderate wing of the Russian Social Democrats called Mensheviks. The key issue was the relationship of revolution to war. Unlike the other socialist, Lenin actually was in favor of war at this time, because he thought it would weaken capitalism and prepare the ground for revolution.
But in two key votes on this issue within the party he lost. At Zimmerwald in September 1915 the decision against Lenin was 23 to 7 within the leadership. Lenin denounced the victors as “social patriots” and “social pacifists” – terms which today have none of the derogatory ring of the time. At Kienthal in April 1916 the decision was much the same. Most of the European workers disavowed Lenin and socialist leaders said he was fanatical, romantic, and sectarian. Lenin, in turn called the socialists hopelessly bourgeois. The Bolshevik Duma deputies, meanwhile, are arrested and indicted for treason.
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They are then sent off to Siberia, including Sverdlov, Ordjonikidze, and Stalin. In 1913 Stalin had been arrested for the sixth time – so this was the seventh time for him. The Central Committee of the Bolsheviks in St. Petersburg was disbanded by the police in 1912. It reorganized itself in the summer of 1916 under the leadership of Shliapnikov, assisted by Molotov and Stalin. Lenin, still in Switzerland, writes Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism. In this opus he extends the exploitation of class to that of an entire people.
Yet, despite all this, Lenin is very skeptical about revolutionary situation in the early years of the war. #As far as tsarist Russia and the War is concerned, the outcome of two early battles tells the whole story. The Battle of Tannenberg and the Battle of Masurian Lakes ends Russian enthusiasm for war and conquest. The collapse of the Russian front weakened the whole political structure beyond repair The Brusilov Offensive during the summer of 1916 ends up being a Pyrrhic victory. By November 1916 the Duma is ready to accuse the government of “high treason. ” But the tsar refused to yield to the liberals and thus sealed his fate.