The term Mensheviks refers to the faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party led by Yuri Martov and Paul Axelrod that opposed Vladimir Ilich Lenin at the second party congress in 1903. At the congress the main point of difference between Lenin’s followers (the Bolsheviks) and the Mensheviks was the latter’s advocacy of a broad party membership in opposition to the former’s position favoring a narrower, tightly organized and disciplined active membership. The Bolsheviks (from the Russian for majoritarians) gained a majority on the party’s Central Committee which gave the Mensheviks their name from the Russian word men’shinstvo meaning the minority. Menshevism also came to be associated with the view that a bourgeois democratic revolution would have to take place in Russia and a period of capitalism would have to occur before the conditions were ripe for the socialist revolution. In 1912 the Bolsheviks formally broke with the Mensheviks, and the Mensheviks themselves experienced splits over their attitude to World War I and the provisional government. Taking part in the elections to the Constituent Assembly in 1917 the Mensheviks achieved less than 3 percent of the votes compared with the 24 percent received by the Bolsheviks. They denounced the October Revolution by the Bolsheviks as a coup d’état and, after broadly supporting the Bolshevik government in the civil war that followed the 1917 Russian Revolution, they continued their critical stance toward the Bolsheviks by their support for the Kronstadt uprising in 1921. Suppressed by the government after the Kronstadt revolt they continued to have a voice in the émigré journal Sotsialisticheskivy Vestnik (Socialist Courier) until 1965.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.

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