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Leninism is a political and economic theory, a further development of Marxism. It was put into practice by the Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin after the Russian Revolution. Lenin's theories have been hotly contested since their inception, both by critics on the Left, particularly Social Democrats, and also by liberals and conservatives.

Lenin argued that the proletariat can only achieve revolutionary consciousness through the efforts of a communist party that assumes the role of "revolutionary vanguard", although this view changed during the revolutions of 1905 and 1917. Lenin further believed that such a party could only achieve its aims through a form of disciplined organization known as democratic centralism. Other beliefs of Lenin included the necessity to spread the communist revolution to other countries in order for it to survive, an analysis of and opposition to imperialism including a belief that imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism. Lenin also believed that only revolution was capable of overthrowing capitalism. He believed in the destruction of the capitalist state and its replacement with the dictatorship of the proletariat, workers power through soviets.

Lenin believed that a revolution in a country with a relatively small capitalist sector, like Russia, could only act as a catalyst to international revolution.

Lenin developed a theory of imperialism, which he believed largely rose after the death of Karl Marx, and that the advanced industrial nations were avoiding revolution by forcing their excess production into captive colonial markets and exploiting those colonies for their resources. This strengthened capitalism to the point that the revolution would not occur in the most advanced nations but rather in the weakest imperialist state, that being Russia. Many Marxist critics of Leninism, which included social democrats and Eurocommunists held that the Bolshevik program was contrary to Marx's theory of history.

The policies of Leninism were superseded in the Soviet Union by Stalinism, with many of Lenin's colleagues and followers (the "Old Bolsheviks") perishing in the Great Purge. In China, Leninist structure was the basis of organization for both the Kuomintang and the Communist Party of China and formed the starting point for Maoism.

"Marxism-Leninism" is often used by contemporary Communists who reject the "revisionism" of Khrushchev and others as short hand for their theories, commonly titling their organizations "Communist Party of [nation] (Marxist-Leninist)". Generally, on the left, those groups that use the term Marxist-Leninist are those that would be considered Stalinist by Trotskyists.

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Last updated: 11-08-2004 07:29:05