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“”"The early Bolsheviks may have been angels or demons, according as one chooses to regard them, but at any rate they were not sensible men. They were not introducing a Wellsian Utopia but a Rule of the Saints, which like the English Rule of the Saints, was a military despotism enlivened by witchcraft trials."
|—George Orwell, Wells, Hitler and the World State|
Bolshevik (Russian: большевик bol'shevik) was the name given to members of one of the two largest factions of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) when the Party split (1903) into two factions before the 1917 October Revolution. The Bolsheviks rose to prominence during World War I (1914-1918) as the war severely amplified Russia's internal problems, such as food shortages and abysmal development, and these issues led to Emperor Nicholas II abdicating (1917) before being executed (1918) during the Russian Civil War of 1917-1922. (The other wing of the Party was made up of Mensheviks - "minoritarians", who were reformist and moderate.) During the First Red Scare of 1919-1920, and to this day, communism is occasionally
smeared ascalled "Bolshevism".
Mostly made up of workers, the Bolsheviks wanted to end Russia's involvement in World War I and eventually did this by signing the 1918 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which gave Germany and Austria-Hungary a good chunk of Russia's territory in exchange for peace. A famous slogan emphasizing what the Bolsheviks were poised to implement was "Peace, Land, and Bread"; "Peace" meant the end Russia's involvement in World War I, "Land" meant land redistribution for peasants, and "bread" referred to the end of food shortages that were rampant throughout Russia at the time. Eventually the Bolsheviks renamed themselves as the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) and ran Russia Inc. until 1991 under the aegis of more sophisticated slogans like "democratic centralism" and "building socialism".
The word "Bolshevik" itself stems from the Russian adjective большой (tr: bol'shoy), literally meaning "big", or from the noun большинство (tr: bol'shinstvo) meaning "majority", and it simply means "majoritarian" in this context. The Bolsheviks were originally nicknamed so after a split of the original Russian Social-Democratic Workers' Party (RSDRP) before the 1905 Russian Revolution. The split was driven by differences in strategies of class alliances; the Mensheviks favored alliances with the bourgeoisie to overthrow the Tsarist aristocracy, while the Bolsheviks favored alliances with the peasants. Lenin's faction was perceived to have enjoyed a majority over Martov's faction (the Mensheviks, or minoritarians). The Bolsheviks didn't retain their majority in numbers for long, but already had the name and thus the PR boost that comes with being "the majority".
The alt-right enjoys bringing up Bolsheviks in conversation frequently, because a number of the Bolshevik leaders were Jewish. The reason for this was, obviously, not some kind of conspiracy, but the fact that Jews suffered discrimination in Imperial Russia (along with other ethnic minorities), were prohibited from living in the countryside or in the eastern provinces (thus concentrating in the big cities in western Russia, including the capital), were on average better educated than ethnic Russians, and therefore were more likely to express political dissent and to join various political movements in opposition to monarchists.
- Bolshy, Dictionary.com
- See the Wikipedia article on Russian oligarch.