Foundations of Leninism

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The Foundations of Leninism
Foundations of Leninism English 10th Anniversary Edition.jpg
Tenth Anniversary Edition (1934)
AuthorJoseph Stalin
Original titleОб основах ленинизма
CountrySoviet Union
GenrePolitical Philosophy
Publication date
Media typePrint.

Foundations of Leninism is a 1924 publication written by Joseph Stalin. The work consists of nine lectures given by Stalin at The Sverdlov University in 1924 and published by The Soviet newspaper Pravda.[1][2]


After the death of Vladimir Lenin in January 1924 a power struggle began within the factions of The Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Stalin was quick to ally himself with fellow Soviet politicians Grigory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev.[3]

Vladimir Lenin explicitly condemned Stalin before his death in a document referred to as "The Lenin Testament". This document was officially suppressed by the Party Central Committee.[4]


The work consists of the written text of nine lectures Stalin gave to trainee party activists at the Sverdlov University. This was the first work produced by Stalin since the October Revolution in 1917.[5]

Historian and Stalin biographer Robert Service referred to Stalin's writing style as being as being formulaic and "catechistic".[4]


I.The Historical Roots of Leninism[edit]

Stalin focuses the first of the lectures to the issue of the historical roots of Leninism as a form of Marxism. According to Stalin, Leninism is a product of the conditions of imperialism in which it was formed as a guiding ideology of the Bolshevik Party. Stalin lists three contradictions which imperialism brings into the capitalist climate:

  • 1) the contradiction between labor and capital.
  • 2) the contradictions between financial groups and imperialist nations,
  • 3) is the contradiction between ruling nations and colonial/dependent nations and peoples.

These factors associated with imperialism increase the already present contradictions within the capitalist countries. The lecture builds on Lenin's writings on the nature of imperialism particularly 1917's Imperialism, the Highest Form of Capitalism.


Stalin opens this lecture by referring to the period of The Second Internationale under which Karl Kautsky and other orthodox Marxists adopted "opportunistic" (revisionist) principles to preserve unity within The Social Democratic Party. It was due to this opportunism that Kautsky and The Party didn't endorse revolutionary socialists tactics and programs, favoring instead the reformism of Bernstein. With the onset of World War One the Second Internationale according to Stalin, became antiquated, "chauvinistic", and "narrow-minded" by supporting the war and opposing violent proletarian revolution. According to Stalin, Leninism with its success during The October Revolution and subsequent Russian Civil War, succeeded as the formal ideology of Marxism. Stalin defines the method of Leninism as such:

  • 1)The testing of the theoretical dogmas of the Second Internationale, the restoration of theory and practice
  • 2)The testing of the policy of the parties of the Second Internationale, the restoration of tactics and actions
  • 3)The reorganization of all Party work on new revolutionary lines, training and preparing the masses for revolutionary struggle
  • 4)Self-criticism with the party as a means to regulate opinion and assess strategy

The concept of Self-Criticism was developed and expanded upon as an essential component of Party politics, Stalin justified this doctrine by citing Lenin's work Left-wing Communism, An Infantile Disorder. Self-criticism according to Stalin should be considered an essential component of Leninist (Marxist–Leninist) political ideology.


IV.The Dictatorship of The Proletariat[edit]

V.The Peasant Question[edit]

VI.The National Question[edit]

VII.Strategy and Tactics[edit]

VIII.Strategy and Tactics[edit]

IX.Style of Work[edit]


Prominent Bolshevik Leon Trotsky who would lead the Left Opposition to Stalin, responded to these lectures in his work Permanent Revolution where he deeply criticizes Stalin's work, referring to it as "ideological garbage", "an official manual of narrow mindedness", and "an anthology of enumerated banalities".[6] Trotsky characterized the work as part of a propaganda campaign by the alliance of Zinoviev, Bukharin, and Kamenev. Likewise, to Stalin, Zinoviev published a similar position on Stalin titled Leninism.

According to Trotskyist historian Isaac Deutscher The Foundations of Leninism was withdrawn from circulation due to conflicts between the text and Stalin's recently developed concept of Socialism in One Country. Stalin would produce a follow-up text The Problems of Leninism which presents a corrected conception of Marxism-Leninism in which socialism can be successfully produced by focusing on the industrial economy of a single socialist state.[7][8]

Erik van Ree, a lecturer at the Institute of Eastern European Studies at the University of Amsterdam notes that The Foundations of Stalinism contributed to Stalin's developing synthesis of Marxism with Russian Nationalism in the form of Social patriotism.[9]


Allegations of Plagiarism[edit]

Historian Stephen Kotkin, accuses Stalin of plagiarizing the content of Foundations of Leninism from Zinoviev.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Foundations of Leninism".
  2. ^ Stalin, Joseph (1975). The Foundations of Leninism (Red Star Publisher Reprint, 2010 ed.). Beijing: Foreign Languages Press. p. 119. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  3. ^ Kort, Michael (2006). The Soviet Colossus. Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe. pp. 177, 502. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  4. ^ a b Service, Robert (2004). Stalin: A Biography. The United Kingdom. Stalin was lucky since the Party Central Committee, with the encouragement of Kamenev and Zinoviev, ruled that the Testament should be read out only to the heads of the provincial delegations. If Kamenev and Zinoviev had not still been worried about Trotski, they might have done for Stalin.
  5. ^ Service, Robert (2004). Stalin: A Biography. United Kingdom: Macmillan. p. 715. Meanwhile Stalin was eager to put himself forward as a theorist. He had had no time to write a lengthy piece since before 1917, and no Bolshevik leader was taken seriously at the apex of the party unless he made a contribution on doctrinal questions. Despite the many other demands on his time and intellect, he composed and—in April 1924—delivered a course of nine lectures for trainee party activists at the Sverdlov University under the title Foundations of Leninism. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  6. ^ Trotsky, Leon (1963). Permanent Revolution/Results and Prospects. London, UK: New Park Publications. pp. 36–37, 246.
  7. ^ Deutscher, Isaac (1949). Stalin: A political biography,. Oxford University Press.
  8. ^ Woods, Alan (1990). Stalin and Stalinism. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. p. 28. ISBN 9470842092 Check |isbn= value: checksum (help). Although Trotsky found many critics of his theory, including Lenin, the events of 1917 in Russia came very close to the first part of Trotsky’s formulation. During the mid-twenties, however, as it became clear that the expected proletarian revolutions in the West were not about to take place, the question arose about the self-sufficiency of the Russian Revolution. In other words, was it possible, in the absence of world revolution, to build ‘Socialism in One Country’? In a series of lectures delivered in 1924 entitled Foundations of Leninism, Stalin stated emphatically that the theory of permanent revolution was now untenable. Of course, he conceded, the ‘final victory’ of international socialism required ‘the efforts of the proletarians in several advanced countries’, but ‘the uneven and spasmodic character of the development of the various capitalist countries . . . leads not only to the possibility, but also to the necessity of the victory of the proletariat in individual countries’ [emphasis added]. In practical political terms, Stalin’s policy of constructing socialism in one country was simply more attractive to the party rank-and-file and those in the population who understood such things than the prospect held out by Trotsky and others of further revolutionary struggle. Stalin’s formula was in a sense an appeal to basic nationalist instincts rather than internationalist dogma.
  9. ^ Van Ree, Erik (2002). The Political Thought of Joseph Stalin: A study in twentieth-century revolutionary patriotism. London and New York: Routledge-Curzon. ISBN 0-7007-1749-8. Although no racist, Stalin’s appreciation of the Russian character was real enough. His classical statement on it was made in the 1924 On the Foundations of Leninism, where he mentioned the 'Russian revolutionary sweep' as the counterpoint to 'American efficiency'. It was an 'antidote against rigidity, routine, conservatism, stagnation of thought, against a slavish attitude towards the traditions of our grandfathers.' The Russian revolutionary sweep aroused the mind, 'drives forward, crushes the past, gives perspective.' This returns us once again to one of the main theses of the present book, namely that Stalin was a patriot but no conservative. He found the most admirable trait of the Russians their hatred of traditions and the past.
  10. ^ Kotkin, Stephen (October 15, 2015). Stalin: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928. Peinguin. p. Chapter 12.

Further reading[edit]

  • Service, Robert. Stalin: A Biography (2004)
  • Trotsky, Leon. Stalin: An Appraisal of the Man and his Influence. The Universal Library. (1941)
  • Deutscher, Isaac (1949). Stalin: A political biography,. Oxford University Press.