Foundations of Leninism

Foundations of Leninism is a 1924 collection by Joseph Stalin of nine lectures he delivered at Sverdlov University that year. It was published by the Soviet newspaper, Pravda.[1][2]

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


After the January 1924 death of Vladimir Lenin, a power struggle began among 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]

The book contains the written text of nine lectures Stalin delivered to trainee party activists at Sverdlov Communist University, and was the first work produced by Stalin since the 1917 October Revolution.[4]


Stalin's nine lectures covered the historical roots of Leninism, methods, theory, the dictatorship of the proletariat, the peasant question, the national question, strategy and tactics (two lectures), and style of work. He focused his first lecture on the issue of the historical roots of Leninism as a form of Marxism. According to Stalin, Leninism is a product of imperialism and a guiding ideology of the Bolsheviks. He lists three contradictions which imperialism brings to capitalism:

  • The contradiction between labor and capital
  • The contradiction between financial groups and imperialist nations
  • The contradiction between ruling nations and colonial (dependent) nations and peoples

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

Stalin opens his second lecture, on methods, with a reference to the period of the Second International in which Karl Kautsky and other orthodox Marxists adopted "opportunistic", (revisionist) principles to preserve unity in the social-democratic parties. It was due to this opportunism that Kautsky and the parties did not endorse revolutionary socialist tactics and programs, instead favoring Eduard Bernstein's reformism. According to Stalin, the Second International became "antiquated," "chauvinistic," and "narrow-minded" at the onset of World War I by supporting the war and opposing violent proletarian revolution; Leninism, with its success in the October Revolution and the Russian Civil War, became Marxism's main legitimate tendency. He defines the methods of Leninism as:

  • Testing the theoretical dogmas of the Second International and the restoration of theory and practice
  • Testing the policy of the parties of the Second International
  • Reorganization of all party work along new, revolutionary lines, preparing the masses for revolutionary struggle
  • Self-criticism, with the party a means of regulating opinion and assessing strategy

The concept of self-criticism was developed and expanded as an essential component of party politics, with Stalin justifying the doctrine by citing Lenin's "Left-Wing" Communism: An Infantile Disorder. Self-criticism, according to Stalin, should be considered an essential component of Leninist (Marxist–Leninist) political ideology.


Bolshevik Leon Trotsky (who led the leftist opposition to Stalin) referred to the lectures in The Permanent Revolution as "ideological garbage", "an official manual of narrow-mindedness" and "an anthology of enumerated banalities",[5] characterizing them as part of a propaganda campaign by Zinoviev, Bukharin, and Kamenev. Zinoviev published a similar criticism in Leninism: Introduction to the Study of Leninism.[6]

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 produced a follow-up text, The Problems of Leninism, which presents a corrected conception of Marxism-Leninism in which socialism can be produced by focusing on the industrial economy of a single state.[7][8] Erik van Ree, a lecturer at the University of Amsterdam's Institute of Eastern European Studies, notes that The Foundations of Leninism contributed to Stalin's developing synthesis of Marxism with Russian nationalism in the form of social patriotism.[9]

In contrast to the Trotskyist movement, African American communist and Soviet politburo member Harry Haywood received the text extremely positively, particularly praising Stalin's theories on the nature of imperialism in relation to Jim Crow and slavery.

Plagiarism allegationEdit

Historian Stephen Kotkin accuses Stalin of plagiarizing Foundations of Leninism from Soviet journalist Filipp Ksenofontov.[10]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "The Foundations of Leninism".
  2. ^ Stalin, Joseph (1975). The Foundations of Leninism (Red Star Publisher Reprint, 2010 ed.). Beijing: Foreign Languages Press. pp. 119.
  3. ^ Kort, Michael (2006). The Soviet Colossus. Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe. pp. 177, 502.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Trotsky, Leon (1963). Permanent Revolution/Results and Prospects. London, UK: New Park Publications. pp. 36–37, 246.
  6. ^ "Gregory Zinoviev: Bolshevism or Trotskyism". Retrieved 2019-09-19.
  7. ^ Deutscher, Isaac (1949). Stalin: A political biography. Oxford University Press.
  8. ^ Woods, Alan (1990). Stalin and Stalinism. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. p. 28. ISBN 9780415307321. 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. Penguin. p. Chapter 12.

Further readingEdit

  • 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.