To what extent was Leninism similar/different from Marxism?

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larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both Marx and Lenin believed that the proletariat, that is the working classes, would rise up and overthrow their capitalist oppressors. The end result would be the dictatorship of the proletariat in which government was unnecessary and would gradually wither away. Lenin studied Marxism while in exile in Siberia, and also during his time in Switzerland. By the time he had returned to Russia, he had developed his own theories:

  1. Marx had believed that the proletarian revolution need not be violent; Lenin believed that only violent revolution could destroy capitalism. To Lenin, a peaceful revolution was contrary to Marx's ideas of continuous class conflict.He once stated that without terrorism, there could be no revolution.
  2. Marx had anticipated--and expected--that the worker's revolution would occur in England, a country which was heavily industrialized. To him, the rise of capitalism was a necessary step toward the revolution. He did not believe that a country as backward as Russia where capitalism had not yet fully developed could lead such a revolution. Lenin believed that the peasants of Russia, who were mostly poor, could provide such a revolution without the necessary inclusion of capitalism.
  3.  Marx had based his ideas on what he termed a scientific study of history. He believed that ordinary people would eventually bring about the revolution. Lenin did not agree. He believed that human leadership, not history, determined when/how a revolution would take place. The revolution of necessity would be led by full time revolutionaries and intellectuals who would not be satisfied with small steps and limited progress.