The Bolsheviks, originally also Bolshevists[a] or Bolsheviki (Russian: большевики, большевик (singular), IPA: ; derived from bol'shinstvo (большинство), "majority", literally meaning "one of the majority"), were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) which split apart from the Menshevik faction[b] at the Second Party Congress in 1903. The RSDLP was a revolutionary socialist political party formed in 1898 in Minsk in Belarus to unite the various revolutionary organisations of the Russian Empire into one party.
In the Second Party Congress vote, the Bolsheviks won on the majority of important issues, hence their name. They ultimately became the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.[c] The Bolsheviks, or Reds, came to power in Russia during the October Revolution phase of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and founded the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR). With the Reds defeating the Whites and others during the Russian Civil War of 1917–1922, the RSFSR became the chief constituent of the Soviet Union (USSR) in December 1922.
The Bolsheviks, founded by Vladimir Lenin and Alexander Bogdanov, were by 1905 a major organization consisting primarily of workers under a democratic internal hierarchy governed by the principle of democratic centralism, who considered themselves the leaders of the revolutionary working class of Russia. Their beliefs and practices were often referred to as Bolshevism.
In the 2nd Congress of the RSDLP held in Brussels and London during August 1903, Lenin and Julius Martov disagreed over the membership rules. Lenin wanted members "who recognise the Party Programme and support it by material means and by personal participation in one of the party's organisations". Martov suggested "by regular personal assistance under the direction of one of the party's organisations". Lenin advocated limiting party membership to a smaller core of active members as opposed to "card carriers" who might only be active in party branches from time to time or not at all. This active base would develop the cadre, a core of "professional revolutionaries", consisting of loyal communists who would spend most of their time organising the party toward a mass revolutionary party capable of leading a workers' revolution against the Tsarist autocracy.
A main source of the factions could be directly attributed to Lenin's steadfast opinion and unwillingness to "bear opinions which were contrary to his own".[attribution needed] It was obvious at early stages in Lenin's revolutionary practices that he would not be willing to concede on any party policy that conflicted with his own predetermined ideas. It was the loyalty that he had to his own self-envisioned utopia that caused the party split. Lenin was seen even by fellow party members as being so narrow minded that he believed that there were only two types of people: "Friend and enemy—those who followed him, and all the rest". Leon Trotsky, one of Lenin's fellow revolutionaries (though they had differing views as to how the revolution and party should be handled), compared Lenin in 1904 to the French revolutionary Maximilien Robespierre. Lenin's view of politics as verbal and ideological warfare and his inability to accept criticism even if it came from his own dedicated followers was the reason behind this accusation.
The root of the split was a book titled What Is To Be Done? that Lenin wrote while serving a sentence of exile. In Germany, the book was published in 1902. In Russia, strict censorship outlawed its publication and distribution. One of the main points of Lenin's writing was that a revolution can only be achieved by the strong leadership of one person (or of a very select few people) over the masses. After the proposed revolution had successfully overthrown the government, this individual leader must release power to allow socialism to fully encompass the nation. Lenin also wrote that revolutionary leaders must dedicate their entire lives to the cause in order for it to be successful. Lenin said that if professional revolutionaries did not maintain control over the workers, then they would lose sight of the party's objective and adopt opposing beliefs, even abandon the revolution entirely. Lenin's view of a socialist intelligentsia showed that he was not a complete supporter of Marxist theory, which also created some party unrest. For example, Lenin agreed with the Marxist idea of eliminating social classes, but in his utopian society there would still be visible distinctions between those in politics and the common worker. Most party members considered unequal treatment of workers immoral and were loyal to the idea of a completely classless society, therefore Lenin's variations caused the party internal dissonance. Although the party split of Bolsheviks and Mensheviks would not become official until 1903, the differences originally began to surface with the publication of What Is To Be Done?. Through the influence of the book, Lenin also undermined another group of reformers known as "Economists", who were pushing for economic reform while wanting to leave the government relatively unchanged and who failed to recognize the importance of uniting the working population behind the party's cause.
Other than the debate between Lenin and Martov. Lenin felt membership should require support of the party program, financial contributions and involvement in a party organization whereas Martov did not see the need for joining Party organizations, internal unrest also rose over the structure that was best suited for Soviet power. As discussed in What Is To Be Done?, Lenin firmly believed that a rigid political structure was needed to effectively initiate a formal revolution. This idea was met with opposition from his once close followers including Julius Martov, Georgy Plekhanov, Leon Trotsky and Pavel Axelrod.[page needed] Plekhanov and Lenin's major dispute arose addressing the topic of nationalizing land or leaving it for private use. Lenin wanted to nationalize to aid in collectivization whereas Plekhanov thought worker motivation would remain higher if individuals were able to maintain their own property. Those who opposed Lenin and wanted to continue on the Marxist path towards complete socialism and disagreed with his strict party membership guidelines became known as "softs" while Lenin supporters became known as "hards".