There was a time when socialism was among the most important and successful political ideologies in Europe. There was also a time when socialist revolutionaries were taking Asia and Africa by storm. Many socialist revolutionaries gained power in countries like Cambodia and Somalia – and this led to several wars. The most well known of these wars were in Vietnam and Korea. Cuban socialist revolutionaries changed the course of history, and almost caused a nuclear war between the west and the Soviets. And that brings us onto the Soviet Union. Soviet soldiers killed 90 percent of Nazi soldiers in the second world war. They supported North-Vietnam during the Vietnam war. They built a wall through Berlin. All of these notorious actions stemmed from those of a small group of activists inspired by the writing of Karl Marx. This is a list of the 10 best socialist revolutionaries ever.
Rosa Luxemburg was an important figure in German history. She played a leadership role in a communist revolution against the German government in 1918 as part of a group called the Spartacist league. The revolution ultimately failed, and Rosa Luxemburg was murdered in 1919 for her part in the affair. She was critical of Bolshevik brutality – yet still apologetically socialist. Her execution secured her martyr status in the eyes of many future generations of socialist revolutionaries – many of them on track for successful takeovers. Her body was located in June of 1919. Despite being a strong female leader, she was openly critical of feminism. Which often means people are reluctant to honour her memory.
James Connolly is known as one of the founding fathers of Ireland. But he was also a socialist revolutionary. In 1896, he founded the Irish Socialist Republican Party and soon gained respect as one of the most influential Marxist thinks of his age. It’s clear that he gained his Marxist outlook from his childhood, growing up in a Victorian slum in Scotland. His writings and speeches have gone down as some of the greatest and most inspiring of all time – which is impressive for a man who left education at the age of 11. He played a part in an armed uprising against British rule in 1916, for which he was executed by firing squad.
Chen Duxiu is not very well known in the western world but he was one of the leading socialist revolutionaries in China during the early 20th century. He was one of the founders of the Communist Party of China, which is currently in power in China and can boast a membership of 87 million. This, of course can only mean he is among the most influential men in modern history. But he was expelled from the party after his involvement in a massacre of communists by the Chinese nationalist party. He also spent 5 years in prison following the massacre before dying of a heart attack in 1942.
Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh is a well loved figure within Vietnam. He was prime minister of North-Vietnam for 10 years. He also founded the Viet Cong during the Vietnam war. The was also the president of North-Vietnam until his death in 1969. For some reason he is still considered the eternal chairman of the Communist party of Vietnam. He cemented his status as a founding father of Vietnam when he defeated France in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. The French really didn’t want to lose influence in their former Asian colonies, this battle was an important step in driving them out of the region.
The image of Che Guevara can still be seen on the t-shirts of hippie protesters to this day. He has become an icon of counter-culture, mostly because he looked good in a hat. He played a major role in the Cuban revolution and then got to work training the Cuban military. This is perhaps his true legacy, as the Cuban military was able to defend against American invasion. He was known for his guerrilla tactics and criticism of colonialism. He also fought in the Congo during the 1960s on the side of communist rebels. On top of that, he founded a guerrilla unit of about 50 socialist revolutionaries. The Bolivian military teamed up with the American CIA to find and capture Che Guevara in 1967. He was soon found and executed. They say his last words were “Shoot, coward, you are only going to kill a man”. This claim has been disputed.
Josip Tito was the president of Yugoslavia who famously feuded with Joseph Stalin. As a communist revolutionary, he was desperate to maintain the independence of Yugoslavia. This mean resisting influence from the Soviet Union, and also meant isolation from western capitalist nations. He stood alone in a dangerous world, in the face of the threat of foreign invasion and attempts to assassinate him. Stalin sent several assassins to kill Josip Tito – forcing him to threaten Stalin, he once sent this message to Stalin: “Stop sending people to kill me. We’ve already captured five of them, one of them with a bomb and another with a rifle – If you don’t stop sending killers, I’ll send one to Moscow, and I won’t have to send a second.”
Chairman Mao was one of the most notorious dictators of all time. Few dictators have cause as many deaths as him, and even fewer were able to transform their countries as much as he was. He was the first ever leader of Communist China, therefore laying the foundations to China becoming the largest economy in the world. Chairman Mao’s cultural revolution transformed China into a business friendly nation ready for industrialization. In 1972, he opened relations with the western world when he met Richard Nixon in Beijing. He was also known for his toleration of human rights abuse of impoverished workers.
Vladimir Lenin led the Russian communist revolution and served as the first head of Soviet Russia. He founded the Bolshevik party after splitting from a much larger party. The Bolsheviks managed to gain power after an initial Russian revolution that overthrew the Russian monarchy. They then fought a brutal civil war, cementing their claim to power. Lenin was a man of principal, he lived modestly and ate with common workers every day – a true socialist. He took Joseph Stalin under his wing – only later to regret it. Towards the end of his life he realized that Stalin was a monster, and tried to warn the other communists. But by then it was too late, he had lost his ability to speak because of a stroke.
Leon Trotsky was admired by many. He was an intellectual and man of culture, which was unusual for socialist revolutionaries at the time. He was a great speaker, an articulate writer, and a brilliant military leader. He founded and led the red army, as he had a mind for warfare. This meant that he played a vital role in the Russian civil war, in which the Bolshevik were victorious. His dream of “permanent revolution” was the idea that communist revolution could be spread to other nations, thereby securing strong diplomatic alliances. In the 1920s, Trotsky was sidelined by the Rise of Joseph Stalin. He was soon expelled from the party and Exiled from Russia. He moved to Mexico where Stalin eventually sent an assassin to kill him. He was killed by an ice axe strike to the head.
Karl Marx is the father of all socialist revolutionaries – and also the father of socialism. Karl Marx has changed the world in a way that no one else ever has before or since. Without him, there would never have been the Soviet Union, or the Communist revolution, or the careers of any of the socialist revolutionaries on this list. Born in Prussia, Marx was well educated and middle-class. He was a radical right from the start, writing for anti-monarchy newspapers. This was a big taboo in Prussia so he soon found himself expelled from the country. The only European nation that would accept him was Great Britain, so he moved there. While in England, he did much of his writing and he studied worker philosophy in industrial Manchester. He put forward the idea that every country would eventually have a middle-class revolution. And eventually a workers revolution after that. The result would be a communist society where all men would be equal.