April Theses{3}

Lenin at the Finland Station in Petrograd in Spring 1917

Lenin at the Finland Station in Petrograd in Spring 1917

“Few contemporaries imagined that, after three centuries of rule, the Romanov dynasty could vanish in several days.” (Freeze, 273.) 

February 1917, the stage is set for change and progress as Tsar Nicholas abdicates his throne at the demand and protest of an unhappy Russian people. A provisional government was established out of a crippled Duma and appointed Soviet leaders from multiple socialist parties. This uneasy dual governmental system proved ineffective and would lead to instability that prompted the October revolution.  World War One continued to rage on, and the people demanded not only revolutionary change, but a revolutionary leader. They received just that in the return of an exiled Vladimir Lenin.

Lenin arrived to Petrograd from exile in Switzerland and was greeted the night of April 3rd to a crowd of Bolshevik supporters. Lenin brought with him an unprecedented fervor and belief in his system of communist administration for a newly liberated Russia. The strength of Lenin’s determination to ensure that Russia accepted a Bolshevik system of a proletariat empowering future was driven home by his April Theses, delivered in Petrograd on April 4th.

Lenin Speech at the Tauride Palace (April 4th 1917)

Lenin Speech at the Tauride Palace (April 4th 1917)

The theses itself was short, but deliverable in that it had realistic and identifiable goals. One of the most simplistic, but striking, characteristics about Lenin and his theses is that he picked a path that was easily discernible, but nonetheless bold. Lenin called for the people to do mainly two things. One was to dismiss the duality coalition of the provisional government set up between petty bourgeois leaders left in the wake of the Tsar, and semi-soviets from lesser hard lined socialist parties. This was a pseudo emancipation from the Tsar and the regime of old, and to accept it would be like returning to the bondage of the state that brought them to this point in the first place. Secondly, it was for the people to accept the uncompromising Bolshevik tenants of revolution that would empower the people and create a completely different free society branded under a new name with a hope of succeeding where the name of other liberal socialists failed, and that was communism.

Lenin left no one guessing what his views were concerning the future for Russia, and as history revealed in the October revolution, he succeeded.  The power of Lenin’s theses lay in that he openly and honestly addressed the public that they had failed in revolution thus far. They had stopped short of wresting power and emancipating themselves, stopping at stage one and consequently they “placed power into the hands of the bourgeoisie to the second stage, which must place power into the hands of the proletariat and the poor strata of the peasantry” (Lenin, April Theses.)

The theses laid out a plan to have a total revolution that would set Russia apart on the world stage as a leader of of a liberally left sided thought of political and personal emancipation. The theses was driven to success by the historical tyranny of the Tsar, and the raging European war spurred on by capitalist imperial bourgeoisie of European states who would see Russia implode after the end of the war and return to a despotic monarch rule. Lenin spoke directly to the people, the peasants, the soldiers, the middle class, and empowered them to create a destiny separate from the common place practice of ruling elites. The theses had ten main points, and even outlined party tasks to include 1.) immediate summoning of a party congress, 2.) altering the party platform, 3.) renaming the party as communists, (Lenin, April Theses.) However, the majority of the speech was directed at choosing the path of emancipation and for the people to join Lenin and his Bolsheviks to accept nothing less than true freedom in a communist future for the Russian people.

Lenin at Finland Station

Lenin at Finland Station

Works Cited:




V. I. Lenin, Selected Works in Two Volumes (Moscow: Foreign Language Publishing House, 1952), Vol. 2, pp. 3-17.

Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997. Print.