Lenin’s Legal Career


After graduating from the ‘gymnasium’, Lenin entered the faculty of Laws at Kazan University. The universities of the capitals were closed to him as the brother of an executed terrorist. A student, however, Vladimir Ilyich remained but a very short while. Within a month he was expelled from the University for taking part in the students’ revolutionary movement. Only after the lapsed four years was it possible for him to take his final examinations.

The legal career, however, had no attractions for Comrade Lenin. Vladimir Ilyich always spoke in very humorous terms of his few days of ‘practice’ at the bar. Comrade Lenin’s predilections lay in an entirely different direction. He yearned after revolutionary activities.

Comrade Lenin stands, as it were, on the borderland between the old generation of Narodnik [Populist] revolutionists and the new school of Marxist revolutionists. Comrade Lenin himself took part in the student Narodnik circle, but already, even at that time, he stood with one foot in the camp of the Marxists.


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Vladimir Ilyich, however, is bound by ties of blood with the early generation of revolutionary terrorists, those glorious fighters, whose names to this day shine like dazzling stars-because they laid low not the friends of the people, like the wretched cretins, the Right Socialist Revolutionists, but the tyrants and hangmen. Vladimir Ilyich is related by blood to this generation of fighters. He is connected with them through his brother Alexander Ilyich Ulianov, who was a prominent figure in the Narodnaya Volya (People’s Will), and who was on that account hanged by the Czar’s Government in the year 1887.

Comrade Lenin himself was never a member of that party. But he has always inculcated into us the most ardent respect for this cluster of brilliant revolutionary fighters, the first generation of Populist revolutionists. Lenin, since the time when he awakened to a conscious political life, has never shared the Populist theories. He first became prominent when he began to fight against revolutionary Populism. He was the very antithesis of Mikhailovsky. He gained his first laurels as a Socialist precisely through the struggle against Populism. But nobody had so great a respect, no one ever taught the workers to respect these first fighters against Czarism, as Vladimir Ilyich.

In the eyes of Comrade Lenin, such workers as Zhelyabov and Sophie Perovskaya stood transcendently high — people who raised the flag of revolt and went forward with bomb and revolver against the Czar at the end of the ’seventies and in the beginning of the ’eighties, when Russia was a prison-house of nations, when every friend of freedom drew breath in pain, when the workers of Russia were still only beginning to form themselves into a class. Vladimir Ilyich well understood how truly great and immeasurable were the services of the first heralds of the Russian revolution.

And Comrade Lenin did not renounce this heritage. He said: This heritage belongs to us and to us only. Our task is to carry further that work which was begun by Zhelyabov. [The most prominent leader of Narodnaya Volya: executed for the assassination of Czar Alexander in 1881.]

Zhelyabov, who established ties with the working class and who put the question of the Socialist revolution on the order of the day was, in fact, a Bolshevik, a Communist. In order to continue the work of Zhelyabov under new social conditions, we must become revolutionary Marxists, our hearts must beat as one with the working class, the only revolutionary class of our time, that class which cannot emancipate itself without emancipating the whole world.

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