The Bolsheviks (Russian: Большеви́к IPA: [bəlʲʂɨˈvʲik], derived from bolshinstvo, "majority") were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) which split from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903. The Bolshevik Party Political Programme was published in August of that year. Its local organisations across the country were called Soviets, and it later became the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
Bolsheviks (or "the Majority") were an organization of professional revolutionaries (with a mainly Jewish hierarchy) who were strictly governed internally by their principle of quasi-democratic centralism and a quasi-military discipline, and externally by terror and murder. They considered themselves as the vanguard of the revolutionary proletariat of the world, not just Russia. Their beliefs and practices are referred to as Bolshevism. The party was founded by Vladimir Lenin, who also led it in the October Revolution when the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia and went on to found the Soviet Union.
- In 1918, the Bolshevik regime launched a state-sanctioned campaign of mass killings and detentions to silence political enemies—laying the foundation for decades of violence in the U.S.S.R. [...] Russian monarchy had ended. But even though the provisional government that succeeded the tsar passed sweeping civil rights reforms, it struggled to lead. World War I was still in progress, and government officials worried that a defeat at the hands of the Germans would lead to the restoration of the monarchy. Meanwhile, food shortages continued to stir discontent among many Russians. In November 1917, the Bolsheviks took advantage of the unrest and seized power by promising “peace, land and bread” to the Russian people. (The revolution is known as the October Revolution since it fell in October of the Julian calendar, which the Bolsheviks abandoned in January 1918.) The Bolsheviks saw Russia as the ideal place to set a communist revolution into motion—not by the working class rising up to abolish capitalism, as German philosopher Karl Marx had predicted, but through a small, authoritarian group that would establish a socialist state and nudge society toward communism. Led by Lenin, the Bolsheviks abolished the provisional government and abandoned any attempt at democracy. In March 1918, they signed a treaty with the Central Powers to end Russia’s involvement in World War I—a punitive agreement that ceded a third of Russia’s population and agricultural land and most of its resources to Germany. [...] The death toll of the Red Terror may have been much larger—by some accounts, up to 1.3 million may have been its victims. However, due to secrecy, censorship, and the summary nature of many of the executions, the true extent of the Red Terror will likely never be known. When the Bolsheviks emerged victorious from the civil war in 1921, the Red Terror technically ended. But the violence was the prelude to decades of repression and death in Soviet Russia. The Red Terror laid the foundation for political purges and mass executions in the 1930s under Lenin’s successor Joseph Stalin, during which up to three million party “enemies” were killed. The concentration camps were predecessors of the Soviet gulags, forced labor camps where Stalin enslaved tens of millions of Russians from 1929 to 1953. And the Cheka eventually became the KGB, the U.S.S.R.’s feared intelligence agency. The Red Terror charted a macabre course for Russia. For the Bolsheviks, sweeping repression was justified as a tool that both solidified political power and furthered the aims of socialism. And it taught a pointed lesson to those who might otherwise have resisted the regime. “Intimidation is a powerful weapon of policy,” wrote Leon Trotsky, the leader of the Red Army and Lenin’s right-hand operative. “The revolution…kills individuals, and intimidates thousands.”
List of witnesses to Bolshevik terror
- George E. Deatherage
- Elizabeth Dilling
- Leslie Fry
- Ben Klassen
- Alexander Rud Mills
- William Dudley Pelley
- Eugene Nelson Sanctuary
- Nesta Webster
- Dmytryshyn, Basil, editor, Imperial Russia - A Source Book 1700-1917, New York & London, 1967, pps:325-331
- How the Red Terror set a macabre course for the Soviet Union, National Geographic Society, 2020