Between Lenin's ‘revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry’ and the ‘proletarian revolution’ of October 1917, the theory of imperialism came to play a major role in Lenin's strategy. Although the concept of imperialism was first elaborated systematically by ‘bourgeois’ economists, such as J. A. Hobson, and then was taken up by Marxists, such as Luxemburg, Rudolph Hilferding, Nikolai Bukharin and Kautsky, Lenin used his version of imperialism to explain why proletarian revolutions had not yet occurred in the West as predicted, and ultimately to justify the attempt at socialist revolution in Russia. Under imperialism, Lenin explained, ‘the division of nations into oppressor and oppressed … [is] basic, significant and inevitable’. Class analysis of capitalist societies was thus transformed into a global classification of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, imperialist and colony, oppressor and oppressed. The strategic significance of such a theory lay in its proposition that, in the oppressed nations at least, the working class must use the dynamic of the anti-imperialist struggle – in which it was by no means the largest force – to advance the socialist revolution:
The main thing today is to stand against the united, aligned front of the imperialist powers, the imperialist bourgeoisie and the social-imperialists, and for the utilisation of all national movements against imperialism for the purposes of the socialist revolution.
Lenin's concept of imperialism, and his pamphlet of the same name, suggested not only that conditions were objectively favourable for revolution in the oppressed nations (among which Lenin included Russia), but that conditions for revolution had deteriorated in the imperialist countries.