What follows is an excerpt from Maurice Cornforth’s 1952 Readers’ Guide to the Marxist Classics.



J. V. Stalin. History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks): Short Course. International Publishers, 1939.

  • Chapter 3: The Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks in the Period of the Russo-Japanese War and the First Russian Revolution (1904-1907), pp. 54-96.

1. Russo-Japanese War. Further Rise of the Revolutionary Movement in Russia. Strikes in St. Petersburg. Workers’ Demonstration before the Winter Palace on January 9, 1905. Demonstration Fired upon. Outbreak of the Revolution. pp. 54-58.
2. Workers’ Political Strikes and Demonstrations. Growth of the Revolutionary Movement among the Peasants. Revolt on the Battleship Potemkin. pp. 58-62.
3. Tactical Differences between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. Third Party Congress. Lenin’s Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution. Tactical Foundations of the Marxist Party. pp. 62-77.
4. Further Rise of the Revolution. All-Russian Political Strike of October 1905. Retreat of Tsardom. The Tsar’s Manifesto. Rise of the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies. pp. 77-80.
5. December Armed Uprising. Defeat of the Uprising. Retreat of the Revolution. First State Duma. Fourth (Unity) Party Congress. pp. 80-87.
6. Dispersion of the First State Duma. Convocation of the Second State Duma. Fifth Party Congress. Dispersion of the Second State Duma. Causes of the Defeat of the First Russian Revolution. pp. 88-94.
Brief Summary, pp. 94-96.

Written by J. V. Stalin, edited by a Commission of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U.(B), this book was first published in 1938. It makes available the experience and the lessons of the successful fight for socialism of the working people of the Soviet Union.

It shows how the teachings of Marxism were applied and carried into practice in the struggle for socialism, and how they were further developed by Lenin and Stalin in the course of that struggle.

It therefore introduces us to the fundamental ideas of Marxism-Leninism, showing how to apply and develop them in practice, and how to fight for them. And it arms us with knowledge of the laws of social development, confirming our certainty of the victory of communism throughout the world.

The History of the C.P.S.U.(B) may be roughly divided into four periods:—

A. From the Foundation of the Party to the First Russian Revolution of 1905-7.

Chapters 1, 2 and 3 deal with the period up to and including the First Russian Revolution of 1905-7.

Here we learn, first, of the rise of the industrial working class in Russia and of Lenin’s struggle for the formation of a working class party. This struggle involved:

(a) The fight for the fundamental ideas of Marxism against the “populists” (Narodnism), who denied that the workers must play the leading part in the revolution;

(b) The fight against opportunism in the working class movement.

In the struggle first against the “economists,” who thought the workers should confine themselves to economic demands and not wage a political struggle, and then against the Mensheviks, who wanted to turn the working class party into an opportunist social-democratic party of the West European type, Lenin established the principles of the working class party of a new type.¹

In the First Russian Revolution which broke out in 1905 the Bolsheviks showed how to give leadership to the mass movement of the working class. In opposition to the Mensheviks who wanted to hold back the rising mass movement of the workers, Lenin and the Bolsheviks showed that the workers in alliance with the peasants must rise in revolt against Tsarism, overthrow it and clear the way for socialism.

What are the principal points we can learn about from the study of these chapters of the History of the C.P.S.U.(B)?

1. The fundamental teachings of Marxism on the growth of the working class and its struggle, and the role of the working class in the fight for socialism.

2. The relation of the economic with the political struggle of the working class, the tasks of political leadership, and the necessity to fight against the “economist” or narrow trade union type of reformism in the working class movement.

3. The political and organisational principles of the working class party of a new type.

4. The distinction and relationship of the bourgeois and the socialist revolution, and the leading role of the working class in the bourgeois revolution and in passing over from the bourgeois to the socialist revolution.

5. The strategic principles of working class struggle—uniting with all possible allies against the main enemy and isolating the compromising parties.

6. The mass political strike as a revolutionary weapon of the working class.

¹ See Lenin, What Is to Be Done?; One Step Forward, Two Steps Back; Stalin, Foundations of Leninism.


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