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Definition: Marxism–Leninism from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Term used by the Soviet dictator Stalin and his supporters to define their own views as the orthodox position of Marxism as a means of refuting criticism. It has subsequently been employed by other communist parties as a yardstick for ideological purity.


Summary Article: Marxism–Leninism
from Chambers Dictionary of World History

A distinct variant of Marxism formulated by Lenin who, prior to the Bolshevik Revolution, argued for direct rule by the proletariat, defined as workers and poor peasants, and in the circumstances of Russia after 1905 advocated direct democracy through the soviets (councils). In practice, the Bolshevik Revolution did not produce a democratic republic, but gave a ‘leading and directing’ role to the Communist Party, seen as the vanguard of a working class which had insufficient political consciousness to forge a revolution. Such a well-organized and disciplined party, operating according to the principles of democratic centralism, would be able to exploit the revolutionary situation and create a new socialist society. Leninist principles of a revolutionary vanguard became the central tenet of nearly all communist parties. They were organized according to the idea of democratic centralism that afforded the leadership, on the grounds of its revolutionary insight, the right to dictate party policy, to select party officials from above, and to discipline dissenting party members. In addition, Lenin modified Marx's theory of historical materialism, contending that revolutionary opportunities should be seized when they arose, without waiting for the social and economic crisis of bourgeois capitalism leading to proletarian revolution. He also developed a theory of imperialism which held that it was the last stage of a decaying capitalism. This was used to justify revolution in feudal Russia, because it was an imperial power, and subsequently to justify communist intervention in underdeveloped countries as part of the struggle between socialism and imperialism. Serious doubts were cast upon Lenin's views by the many failures of the socialism they led to and eventually by the collapse of the USSR in 1991. → Maoism; Russian Revolution

Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd 2005

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