Lenin’s Declaration: A Reflection of the Toiling People’s Anger

Lenin’s “harsh voice that always grated on his opponents” rang through the air. He was commonly described in this manner while brandishing his fist as a sign of intense and rebellious spirit. Especially in his “Declaration of the Rights of the Toiling and Exploited Peoples,” Lenin employed dark and incriminating language in order to reflect the social, political, and economic turmoil in the era of the Russian Revolution. Within his text, Lenin focused on immediate revolution to upturn the social hierarchy, firmly advocated for the workers’, peasants’, and soldiers’ exclusive participation in government, and vigorously demonstrated his desire of establishing a socialistic economy and toppling down capitalism.

The social hierarchy in Russia, in which the bourgeoisie rested comfortably on top, was a major social issue that Lenin opposed and vigorously attacked in his Declaration of the Rights of the Toiling and Exploited Peoples. In this document, Lenin declared that a goal of the Constituent Assembly was ensuring the “complete abolition of class distinctions in society.” The class system in Russia during the late eighteen hundreds and early nineteen hundreds did not allow for any social mobility between classes and kept the urban working class and peasants at the bottom of society. The peasants made up 82 percent of the population, and yet were struggling as a whole and were the lowest class for a myriad of years. In 1861, the peasants had finally received legal freedom and redistribution of land from an edict of emancipation. However, they received the worst tracts of land and had to pay annual redemption payments to the government leaving them in a more precarious situation. Lenin described this social system as “parasitic.” According to Oxford Dictionaries, a parasite is an organism that lives on or in another organism and benefits by deriving nutrients at the other’s expense. In using the term “parasitic,” Lenin explained that the bourgeoisie had forced the peasants and urban working class to toil and profited off of their sweat and tears. In his declaration, Lenin also categorized the bourgeoisie as “few chosen nations,” which, in juxtaposition to the “hundreds of millions” of the working class, firmly elucidated the bourgeoisie’s relatively miniscule population with the toiling population. He then described the policy of the bourgeois “at the expense” of the working class to be “barbarous.” These situations were the main reasons why Lenin advocated for the “complete” eradication of this policy.

Lenin addressed the political issues of society with forceful language in order not to repeat history and not to place the bourgeoisie in positions of power. Specifically, he emphasized the workers’, peasants’, and soldiers’ sole and exclusive authority in the government. To this point, Lenin’s slogan was “[a]ll power to the Soviets.” In this statement, Lenin asserted that Russia should not repeat history. By the time the Declaration of the Rights of the Toiling and Exploited Peoples was written in January 1918, Russia went through two revolutions: The February Revolution and Bolshevik Revolution. After the February Revolution, despite much anticipation and desperation for democracy, Russia experienced a setback. Although the toiling masses had been hopeful of a new democratic government, the Constituent Assembly, it was not ready and the Provisional Government was formed in its stead on November 25, 1917. Alexander Kerensky was the leader of the government and his Commander-in-Chief was Lavr Kornilov. With their newfound power, they began to oppress the citizens through the restoration of death penalties of civilians, the restoration of military discipline, the militarization of railways and defense industries, and the ban on workers’ organizations. Not only did they support the war, but they also rejected the pleas of people who wanted a limit of eight hour days due to the war. Lenin, who was furious at this improper usage of power, stressed that the government must consist “wholly” of the toiling masses and of their “fully empowered representatives, the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’, and Peasants’ Deputies.” Furthermore, in Lenin’s article “What Is To Be Done?,” he specified that the toiling people should only participate in government if they “engage in revolutionary activities as a profession,” in order to ensure that the government is united and has a desire for immediate rebellion. Another example in which the upper class was resistant to release the power occurred in 1905 and 1906. When avoiding to “sw[ear] to act upon” the October Manifesto “as a constitution,” which limited his sovereignty, Tsar Nicholas II attempted to cling onto to his rapidly diminishing control in government. Recognizing this situation, Lenin explicitly wrote in the Declaration of the Rights of the Toiling and Exploited Peoples that “there is no place for the exploiters in any organ of government.” In this statement, Lenin focused on the bourgeoisie’s injustices against the toiling population and dubbed them “the exploiters.” He also reiterated that they would not participate in “any” form of the government, despite already clearly asserting that the government must be made of solely the toiling masses.

In the Declaration of the Rights of the Toiling and Exploited Peoples, Lenin’s aggravated wording expressed the destitution of the oppressed in Russian society. He focused on diminishing the bourgeoisie’s wealth and establishing a socialist economy. Russia’s economic crisis, as a result of its losing battles in World War I, hit those at the bottom of society severely. When workers in Petrograd faced bread shortage, the Russian authorities in February of 1905 mandated rationing to be implemented. Fed up, the workers finally marched to the center of streets chanting “[b]read!,” “[d]own with the tsar!,” and “[d]own with the war!” However, even the Provisional Government established after the revolution refused to discontinue Russia’s fight in the war and the majority of Russians’ living condition seemed far from an improvement. To their dismay, Lenin’s opinions regarding the implementation of capitalism to be the “claws of capitalism” surfaced and blamed it for starting a “most criminal of all wars” which “drenched the world with blood.” This sentence reflected Lenin’s accusatory tone towards capitalism and that the only way to save “mankind” from this malevolent practice is for the Constituent Assembly to “snatch” mankind promptly. In addition, according to Merriam Webster, a “yoke is an arched device laid on the neck of a defeated person.” In this context, Lenin compared the “toiling masses” to the defeated people who would be “emancipat[ed]” from the “yoke” capitalism through transferring all the banks to the Workers’ and Peasants’ Government.

Lenin’s incriminating language was not a mere expression of his Bolshevik style of delivery, but rather it served as a sounding board for proletariat’s voice in their destitute situation in Russia. With Lenin’s ideas and his vociferous attitude, he forcefully conveyed messages on solving the social, political, and economic problems present during the Russian Revolution in his Declaration of the Rights of the Toiling and Exploited Peoples.


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