The Rise of Communism: From Marx to Lenin

The Rise of Communism: From Marx to Lenin
Course Trailer
The Locomotive of History
1: The Locomotive of History

Come to see Lenin’s arrival at Petrograd’s Finland Station in April 1917 as one of the most important turning points in modern history: the establishment of a communist regime after decades of theory. Also, preview the themes you’ll explore in these lectures, and get solid definitions of terms such as communism and socialism.

24 min
Marx and Engels: An Intellectual Partnership
2: Marx and Engels: An Intellectual Partnership

The revolutionary ideas of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels would rock society—and soon affect the lives of millions of people. Here, explore their body of theory (known as “dialectical materialism”) and learn how Marxism offered something different: a tableau of history with starring roles played by the toiling masses and economic forces.

30 min
The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital
3: The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital

First, unpack the meaning of the revolutionary messages in The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital. Then, use a basic vocabulary of Marxist concepts to better understand Marx’s model of history and economics. Last, examine how the revolutionary lives of Marx and Engels sought to unify theory with practice.

27 min
The 1871 Paris Commune as a Model of Revolt
4: The 1871 Paris Commune as a Model of Revolt

Investigate the violent upheaval of the Paris Commune in 1871: a political experiment that lasted a mere 10 weeks. The Paris Commune would make Marx one of the most feared and hated men in the world; although it failed, Marx considered it a living example of the “dictatorship of the proletariat.”

25 min
Marxism after Marx
5: Marxism after Marx

In the decades following the death of Marx in 1883, the socialist movement grew—but also became highly factional over arguments about theory and organizational tactics. In this lecture, learn about the rise of political parties in Germany and America, the establishment of the Second International, and the struggle over “revisionism.”

30 min
Revolutionary Russias
6: Revolutionary Russias

Why did a Marxist regime come to power in Russia of all places—especially when Marx considered it an unpromising place for a proletarian revolution? Professor Liulevicius tackles this question and also probes Russia’s revolutionary tradition and the ideas of Georgi Plekhanov, the figure who did the most to bring Marx’s teachings to Russia.

27 min
The Making of Lenin
7: The Making of Lenin

Take a detailed look at the life of Lenin, whose ideas and actions propelled him to become the first man to bring communist theory into power in 1917. Here, focus on Lenin’s hardness in the face of the 1891¬¬-1892 famine, his manifesto What Is to Be Done?, and the Bolshevik and Menshevik factions.

25 min
World War I as a Revolutionary Opportunity
8: World War I as a Revolutionary Opportunity

With the outbreak of the First World War, Lenin—who called war an “accelerator of history”—had the world crisis he could turn to his advantage. Topics here include Marxist debates over the philosophies of defensism vs. defeatism, the arrival of Leon Trotsky and his theory of “permanent revolution,” and the widening rift between socialists and communists.

26 min
Red October: How the Bolsheviks Seized Power
9: Red October: How the Bolsheviks Seized Power

The Bolsheviks seized power in October 1917, a moment that would be celebrated afterward as Red October, or the Great October Socialist Revolution. Here, examine the formula for success behind the Bolshevik takeover, the mythologizing of Red October in film and music, and the dawn of a new secret police force: the Cheka.

29 min
Rosa Luxemburg: A Revolutionary Martyr
10: Rosa Luxemburg: A Revolutionary Martyr

Spend time with one of the most famous women radicals in history: the Polish-German socialist Rosa Luxemburg. Follow her revolutionary activities throughout Switzerland, Poland, and Germany; her support of spontaneous revolt over centralized conspiracy; her struggles with the ambiguities of revolutionary devotion; and her ultimate martyrdom.

29 min
The Red Bridge to World Revolution
11: The Red Bridge to World Revolution

How does a revolutionary regime build a bridge to world revolution? After a look at the Third International, or “Comintern,” created in 1919 to spread the message of global revolution, explore failed attempts at sovietizing Hungary and Bavaria and the Soviet-Polish War of 1920, which dashed remaining hopes for linking up with Germany.

30 min
Toward a New Communist Civilization
12: Toward a New Communist Civilization

Follow the trajectory of Bolshevik social experiments to inaugurate a new civilization up through the death of Lenin in 1924. You’ll learn about Lenin’s “monumental propaganda” plan, which changed the appearance of Russia; the nationalist program of “putting down roots”; party recruitment drives and purges; and even the mummification of Lenin’s body.

33 min
Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius

Modernity is a notoriously slippery concept, because, obviously, what is modern now will soon become the past, as time marches relentlessly forward.


University of Pennsylvania


University of Tennessee

About Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius

Dr. Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius is Lindsay Young Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Study of War and Society at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He earned his B.A. from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. After receiving his doctorate, Dr. Liulevicius served as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University. Professor Liulevicius has won many awards and honors, including the University of Tennessee's Excellence in Teaching Award and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship. At the university he teaches courses on modern German history, Western civilization, European diplomatic history, Nazi Germany, World War I, war and culture, 20th-century Europe, nationalism, and utopian thought. Dr. Liulevicius has published numerous articles and two books: War Land on the Eastern Front: Culture, National Identity, and German Occupation in World War I and The German Myth of the East, 1800 to the Present.

Professor Liulevicius participated in The Great Courses Professor Chat series. Read the chat to learn more about diplomacy and war

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