Lenin was alone. The April Theses were offered in his name. They infuriated the Mensheviks and drove many Bolsheviks into the Menshevik camp. He did not mind. "Do not be afraid to remain in a minority." And he proposed a formal break with the Mensheviks. He would no longer share with them the name of Social Democrat. "Personally, and speaking for myself alone, I propose that we change the name of our party, that we call it the Communist Party." Not one of the members of the conference agreed to that final break with the Second International, which had betrayed itself when its members voted war credits to their own government in 1914. "You are afraid to go back on your old memories?" he jeered. "Don't hang on to an old word which is rotten through and through. Have the will to build a new party . . . and all the oppressed will come to you."
"Have the will to build a new party," this extraordinary man demanded in the moment of the party's triumph. Six months later the deed was done, but not before Lenin himself had been driven into hiding to escape from Peter and Paul.
How was it done? What was it all about?
The October revolution was produced by the impact of two distinct forces. One was immense, undisciplined, unsettled as to purpose, and a mass of contradictions; the other compact, maneuverable, and single-minded. One was the people of Russia in revolt, who in March had overthrown the Tsar; the other was the extreme left wing of a single revolutionary party among many, the Bolshevik wing of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party. At the moment of crisis this party was reduced for all practical purposes to a single individual, Vladimir Ilych Lenin, born Ulyanov, who had made Bolshevism, sustained it, preserved its inviolability against bitter odds, identified it absolutely with himself, and yet, on the eve of its triumph, was on the verge of resigning from it. The Bolshevik Party in crisis was nothing but Lenin's will and the men who were prepared to submit to it absolutely. If Lenin had resigned after his return to Russia in 1917 it would have lost its identity, swallowed up by the Mensheviks and the "Compromisers." Lenin would have formed another party, but too late to win for himself the government of Russia; there would have been no Soviet Union. On the other hand, had Lenin given in to the popular demand and allowed his most trusted colleagues to persuade him into compromise, he would have lost his own identity and Bolshevism would have lost its meaning; there would have been no Soviet Union. Lenin made his unbelievable stand when he trotted into the Finland Station in his bowler hat and found himself face to face with Chkheidze.
It was Lenin's personality and tactical skill alone which enabled him, in the name of Marx, to make skilled Marxists follow him against the teachings of Marx. He did this, in the end, by the means he outlined in the April Theses. In the suffering and confusion of revolutionary Russia he held aloof from those who were trying to make the revolution work. He harassed them and embarrassed them with absolute ruthlessness. He appealed to the people, the workers, the soldiers, the peasants, for whom generations of revolutionary intelligentsia had sacrificed themselves, over the heads of the men who had at last helped the people, the workers, the soldiers, and the peasants, to carry out the revolution. He appealed to their most selfish instincts: the desire for bread, for land, for peace. And, in the end, he got them on his side sufficiently to overthrow the government of Petrograd. For this he substituted the dictatorship of the proletariat, which meant, in effect, the dictatorship of Lenin's will.