As I understand from this brief explanation, the main doctrinal difference was that the Bolsheviks were more radical (class struggle) while the Mensheviks were more in favor of class cooperation and peaceful transition. Is this interpretation correct and were there other doctrinal/ideological differences between the two factions?

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    Parts of two of the answers to this related question (asking specifically about their later years) would probably do for answers here as well.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 18:56
  • In the philosophy reason Lenin, as leader of Bolsheviks, decided that Communism can be created in one country. Mensheviks, as Karl Marks, decided that it possible only in whole world at one time. Mensheviks didn't decide that the world revolution time started yet. That is why the Bolsheviks was more radical than the Mensheviks. Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 4:42

4 Answers 4


In his pamphlet "'Left-Wing' Communism: An Infantile Disorder", Lenin describes the Mensheviks as:

narrow-minded, selfish, case-hardened, covetous, and petty-bourgeoise "labour aristocracy", imperialist-minded and imperialist-corrupted

and goes on to call them "social chauvinists", meaning that they put aside the class struggle at war time in favour of nationalism. He saw the (in this case, the first world) war as an imperialist affair and not something the working class should support.

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    so would you say that, if he were alive today, he would label most american upper middle class bourgeoisie who exclaim to be in favor of socialism and Bernie S. as narrow-minded, selfish, case-hardened, covetous, and petty-bourgeoise "labour aristocracy", imperialist-minded and imperialist-corrupted for not being radical enough?
    – amphibient
    Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 19:15
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    @amphibient, I would think "obviously"! :) And he might have found "bleeding-heart..." far too mild. :) Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 19:17
  • @amphibient whether or not I would, it seems Lenin might :)
    – Graham Lee
    Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 19:36
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    How does Lenin's rant at the beginning answer the question? the second part is relevent
    – user31561
    Commented Mar 14, 2019 at 12:38
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    I'm certain the Mensheviks had similar opinions about the Bolsheviks.
    – Jos
    Commented Apr 22 at 0:25

This is what Wikipedia says:-

Mensheviks generally tended to be more moderate, and more positive towards the liberal opposition and the peasant-based Socialist Revolutionary Party. Factions emerged in 1903 following a dispute in the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) between Julius Martov and Vladimir Lenin. The dispute originated at the 2nd Congress of the RSDLP, ostensibly over minor issues of party organization. Martov's supporters, who were in the minority in a crucial vote on the question of party membership, came to be called Mensheviks, derived from the Russian word меньшинство (minority), while Lenin's adherents were known as Bolsheviks, from большинство (majority) The RSDLP was a revolutionary socialist political party formed in 1898 in Minsk in Belarus to unite the various revolutionary organisations of the Russian Empire into one party. Those who opposed Lenin and wanted to continue on the Marxist path towards complete socialism and disagreed with his strict party membership guidelines became known as "softs" while Lenin supporters became known as "hards".

So no, according to my research there were no more differences but who wants to go more in-depth can check these Wikipedia pages.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bolsheviks https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mensheviks


There were many differences between the two. The Bolsheviks wanted extreme bloody violence in their revolution. Followed Karl Marx to the core and believed without a bloody revolution, there is no Marxist revolution. On the other hand the Mensheviks wanted soft revolution, in collaboration with the middle-class and bourgeoise.

The Mensheviks also wanted trade-unionist politics but the Bolsheviks (especially Lenin) was totally against any trade-unions because they maintained the status quo i.e. workers remaining as tools for the elite and just being satisfied by a few concessions on trade unions was not enough, it was an insult to communism itself.

The Bolsheviks also had a sense of urgency in the revolution that it needed to happen now while the Mensheviks were a bit laid back in terms of when the revolution needed to happen.

The Mensheviks were headed by Martov while the Bolsheviks were led by Lenin.

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    – Community Bot
    Commented Apr 21 at 10:44

This is an interesting question, because thanks to the success of the Bolsheviks a lot of people aren't aware of the differences between Marxism and Leninism.

The Bolsheviks and Mensheviks both tried to adapt orthodox Marxism to the circumstances in which they found themselves (Marx himself being skeptical that Russia was ready for revolution up to the very end).

Let's start with Lenin, the leader of the wing of the RSDLP that would come to be called the Bolsheviks. The topic that split Lenin from Martov was core to what would eventually be called Leninism: the vanguard party. In a nation such as Russia with no literacy, industry, or class consciousness to speak of, Lenin thought that only a strong core of "professional revolutionaries" acting in unison would be sufficient to effect a revolution. Critically for Lenin, the vanguard party had to come from the working class, not bourgeois intellectuals.

This is what the split with Martov was really about. The Mensheviks also agreed that Russia wasn't ready for a classic Marxist revolution. But they believed that the way to get there was to work with bourgeois liberals and tried to rule as a coalition with the SRs and Constitutional Democrats throughout 1917. Eventually the party would find itself pulled between the left and right positions on things such as the war or workers' rights, and gradually disintegrated under the contradictions.

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