A faction of Russian Social Democrats that emerged during the Social Democrats’ 1903 London conference, the result of bitter clashes over questions of organization and policy. The leader of the Menshevik faction was Julius Martov, who favored a broad conception of the party, open to all who accepted Karl Marx’ s principles.
   In opposition, Vladimir Lenin stressed that the revolutionary party should be a secret, disciplined, hierarchical organization. During this conference the infamous names Bolshevik (from the Russian, bol’she, meaning larger) and Menshevik (from men’she, or smaller) emerged. These two factions never reconciled their views and thereafter developed sharply different organizations, programs, and expectations for a future revolution. In 1917, the Mensheviks opposed Lenin’s plan to violently overthrow the Provisional Government; later, many joined the counterrevolutionary Whites in the Civil War of 1918–1921. After 1921, many Mensheviks were arrested and exiled, and under Stalin many were imprisoned and executed.
   See also <>.
    Ascher, Abraham, ed. Mensheviks in the Russian Revolution. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1976;
    Basil, John. The Mensheviks in the Revolution of 1917. Columbus, OH: Slavica Publishers, 1984;
    Haimson, Leopold, ed. The Mensheviks: From the Revolution of 1917 to the Second World War. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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