Plekhanov, Georgii Valentinovich

(1856–1918)
   Known as the “father of Russian Marxism,” Plekhanov was a hugely influential figure among Russian radicals including Vladimir Ilich Lenin. Born into the Russian gentry he became part of the movement to the people by radical intellectuals. He joined the Narodnist Populist movement while still a student at military school, and soon became a leader of the populists’ organization Land and Liberty. During this early phase of his political career he was arrested twice and in1880 he was forced to flee abroad. Living in exile in Geneva he became a convert to Marxism, and in 1883 he helped to found the first Russian Marxist group, the Emancipation of Labor Group. In 1882 he published the first Russian translation of the Communist Manifesto and between 1889 and 1904 he was the Russian delegate to the Second International. In 1900 he co-edited the Marxist journal Iskra (The Spark) with Lenin, but his influence gradually declined after failing to embrace the 1905 Russian Revolution. Plekhanov sided with the Mensheviks against the Bolsheviks, and became increasingly critical of Lenin and his party for their “unprincipled” activities and for having attempted a revolution in 1917 in “violation of all the laws of history.”
   Plekhanov wrote a great many works of which The Role of the Individual in History (1908), Fundamental Problems of Marxism (1908) and Development of the Monist View of History (1895) remain as significant entries in the Marxist canon. For many years the source of Russian Marxist orthodoxy, he rejected what he saw as departures from Marx, notably Eduard Bernstein’s revisionism and Lenin’s voluntarist deviation from the stages of historical development. He essentially put forward an economic determinist interpretation of Marxism that took the economic base of society to be all-determining. For Plekhanov Marxism was an all-encompassing worldview from which he derived an epistemology as well as a theory of history and political doctrines.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.

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