Vladimir Lenin: What Is to Be Done?

(1902)

Impact

The ideas put forth in What Is to Be Done? split the RSDLP into two factions (effectively in 1903 and finally and officially in 1912). Those who rejected Lenin's ideas—preferring instead a broader and more open movement and a more orthodox interpretation of Marxism—became known as Mensheviks (“minoritarians”), while Lenin's supporters became the Bolsheviks (“majoritarians”). What Is To Be Done? also helped shape the subsequent form and function of the Bolshevik Party itself, thus laying at least some of the groundwork for the Bolshevik seizure of power in 1917.

Beyond this effect, however, historians are not of one mind when assessing the document's overall importance and impact. While many argue that it remains the single clearest expression of Lenin's basic political ideology and also serves as a key for understanding the eventual Soviet system he founded, others have pointed out that Lenin himself rarely, if ever, referred back to this work after about 1907; that...

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Vladimir Lenin (Library of Congress)

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