In the lead up to the revolution, Russia was enveloped by a number of revolutionary ideologies. These revolutionary beliefs were mostly beyond the understanding of the workers and peasants as they were driven by academics and intellectuals such as Martov, Plekhanov, Lenin and Ttosky.


This is the political theory of the development of society. Man’s existence in society is predetermined to a logical succession, each stage succeeding the other. The mechanism of change is predetermined by economic functions. Change is brought about by economic suppression, which leads to revolution. The history of Man, stated Karl Marx, is one of economic class conflict.


Populism was the alternate route to a socialist state and it was applicable to a society with a large peasant population. It had its origins in Russia with the Narodnik movement and the key men in its original state were Herzen and Chernishevski. It was a belief characterised by private enterprise and a hatred of capitalism and a hatred of an industrial society, which controlled people’s lives. Populism believed that the path to socialism lay in the toil of peasants. Populists believed that a free and prosperous community where everybody helped one another out would overthrow autocracy. Populism had support in England by men like William Cobbett.


Revisionism is sometimes known as Economism. It was the great political opponent to Marxism. Those who supported Revisionism believed that a socialist society could be achieved with a revolution. It could be achieved by education and by using the masses to support an economic struggle fort he workers interest. Revisionists believed that the ultimate truth of their belief would eventually lead to a socialist state and that people would support it when they realised that it was a good belief. Revisionists were strong in Western Europe but not in Russia, possibly because it ruled out the use of violence in an effort to get change, and Russia post-1850 was experiencing frequent violence by the workers.

Lenin and Julius Martov were not keen on Revisionism (as it was a clear challenge to their position as the leaders of Russia’s working class) and both portrayed the belief in a negative manner. Revisionism’s most powerful offshoot was the belief that struggle should be conducted by the workers themselves who knew best their own interests – and not by the bourgeois intellectuals who believed that they knew best what the working class wanted.

Famous Revisionists were Takhtarev who founded the paper ‘Worker’s Thoughts’ in 1897; Struve, a former tsarist minister, and Anna Kuskova. They were opposed to Marxism and were frequent public critics of the belief.

Permanent Revolution:

Permanent Revolution was the great enemy of Marxism. Parvus, a German Jew, was the main leader of the group. The man who is given the greatest credit with developing the ideas of this group is Leon Trotsky.

Permanent Revolution envisaged the missing out of the bourgeois state on the Marxist road to socialism. It recognised that certain societies were backward and did not have an advanced political structure. Therefore, the workers could not grasp or understand the political beliefs of the intellectual bourgeois who claimed to represent the workers on their behalf. Therefore, Permanent Revolution simply cut out this part of the revolutionary dream. As society itself was bound to develop as a revolution advanced, the best way to deal with this development was for the revolution itself to be sustained – i.e. be permanent. Mao Zedong used this belief in the Chinese Revolution.

Permanent Revolution believed that the road to true democracy had to include a phase of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is missing in Marxism. Permanent Revolution believed that power had to pass from the autocracy to the workers in order to forcibly form a socialist – what Lenin referred to as “giving History a push”. Permanent Revolution also believed that revolution had to occur throughout Europe so that all the workers of Europe could support one another, and that no nation existed that posed a direct threat to the workers after the revolution. The workers would unite to support those in another nation who might be under threat from entrenched powers in that nation.


Terrorism was common in Russia after 1850. It was a very simple belief. Those in power would not voluntarily change a society that so enriched them. Therefore, they had to be forced to change and only violence could do this. Terrorism targeted any feasible target – though the nobility and rulers were the most favoured target as their deaths had a bigger impact. Hence the assassination of Alexander II. Terrorism hoped to spark off a spontaneous uprising – that the death of a prominent figure would spur on the workers to go for more. It also succeeded if there was repression after an assassination (such as Alexander II’s and Stolypin’s), as this would be blamed on those who imposed such oppression – those in power. In this sense, terrorism could not fail – it killed people who were anti-change, so in the minds of the terrorists this was a positive move, and it also brought them support when, as invariably happened, repression followed such murders.

In 1862, the Young Russian group was formed by Zaichnevsky. Its principle belief was the murder of the royal family. “Any revolutionary afraid to go too far is not a revolutionary.” (Zaichnevsky)

In Russia, the People’s Freedom was the most important terrorist group in the late C19th. Ironically, it officially ceased to exist after 1883, but those who followed this belief did not know this because of the secrecy within the movement! In 1902, Sypiagin, the Minister of the Interior, was assassinated by Balmashev, a member of the People’s Freedom. In 1904, Plehve was assassinated. Terrorism reached a peak in 1905 when a number of Jews were killed in Bialystok and Odessa – 350 in total.

Small terror cells could not be infiltrated and groups were established to take on the terrorists using like-mined tactics.  The Black Hand targeted all non-Russians, Jews and Freemasons as being enemies of Russia and supporters of socialist revolutionary groups.