Tony Cliff’s book Building the Party: Lenin 1893-1914 traces both Lenin’s early political development and the birth of the Bolshevik party in Russia. This study series breaks the book into 5 sections with questions for each section.
Session One: Lenin Becomes a Marxist
- Chapter 1: Lenin Becomes a Marxist
- Chapter 2: From the Marxist Study Circle to Industrial Action
- Chapter 3: Towards the Building of the Party
- Who were the Narodniks (populists) and what was their vision of social change in Russia?
- On what grounds did Lenin and the Russian Marxists break with Narodism?
- What were some problems with the early workers’ study circles?
- Define the difference between agitation and propaganda.
- What was “economism”?
Session Two: The Birth of Bolshevism
- Chapter 4: What is to be Done?
- Chapter 5: The 1903 Congress: Bolshevism is Born
- Chapter 6: Fighting the Liberals
- Paul D’Amato, The Myth of Lenin’s Elitism
- How did Lenin define “class consciousness” in What is to be Done?
- Why was Lenin so intent on producing an “all-Russian” newspaper?
- When Lenin argued for the need for “professional revolutionaries,” what did he mean?
- On what grounds was there a split in 1903 between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks? Was it just a sectarian squabble?
- Why did Lenin emphasize the question of building a strong organization so much at this time?
- What was Lenin’s attitude to liberalism and how did it differ from Plekhanov’s and Axelrod’s?
Session Three: The 1905 Revolution
- Chapter 7: The 1905 Revolution
- Chapter 8: “Open the Gates of the Party”
- Chapter 9: Lenin on Armed Insurrection
- Chapter 10: The Argument for a Revolutionary Provisional Government
- Chapter 11: The Muzhik in Rebellion
- Chapter 12: The Great Dress Rehearsal
- Why did Lenin criticize the Russian Bolshevik’s attitude toward the Soviet?
- In 1903 Lenin argued for a tight-knit organization of revolutionaries, whereas in 1905 he said “open the gates of the party.” What made him change his views?
- Explain the differences between Lenin’s and the Menshevik’s views on armed insurrection.
- Both the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks agreed on the bourgeois nature of the revolution. How did they differ on their views of the revolution? Define what Trotsky meant by “permanent revolution”?
- Why was the “peasant question” so important in Russia? Could Russian peasants have led the revolution rather than workers?
- Evaluate this statement: Lenin felt that the party should teach the masses, but that the masses had nothing to teach to the party.
Session Four: The Period of Reaction and Decline
- Chapter 13: Dark Reaction Victorious
- Chapter 14: Strategy and Tactics
- Chapter 15: Semi-Unity with the Mensheviks
- Chapter 16: Lenin Expels the Ultra-Lefts
- What was the impact of the defeat of the 1905 Revolution on the workers’ movement? On the Bolsheviks?
- During the revolution Lenin was for boycotting the Duma (the Russian parliament). Afterward, he changed his mind. Why?
- What does it mean to say that Marxist theory is a “guide to action”?
- What did Lenin mean by “seizing the key link”?
- When Lenin spoke of “discipline,” did he mean blind obedience?
- Define “ultra-leftism.”
Session Five: The Rising Revolutionary Movement
- Chapter 17: The Final Split with the Mensheviks
- Chapter 18: The Rising Revolutionary Wave
- Chapter 19: Pravda
- Chapter 20: The Bolshevik Party Becomes a Mass Party
- Why did Lenin fight those who wanted a legal party?
- The conciliators wanted unity between all the socialist factions. Why did Lenin oppose them?
- Describe two ways in which the Bolsheviks were able to grow in size and influence when the workers’ movement began to revive in 1912.
- What does it mean to say that Pravda was a “workers’ newspaper”?
- Does the last chapter on the growth of the party contradict the traditional view that the Bolsheviks were a party of elite professional revolutionaries?