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Polarization, Consolidation, and the Dynamics of Extreme Violence.pdf

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University of Toronto St. George
Doris Bergen

POLARIZATION, CONSOLIDATION, AND THE DYNAMICS OF EXTREME VIOLENCE: THE SOVIET UNION UNDER STALIN INTRODUCTION •If you think about to Seth Bernstein’s lecture, you’ll remember he talked about the Russian Revolution of 1917; the civil war that followed, that ended with the defeat of the whites; the economic disarray, Lenin’s attempt to stem the economic decline of the new revolutionary regime by introducing NEP (New Economic Policy); the use of terror, the creation of the Cheka whose job it was to keep the state under control A TTEMPTS TO C ONSOLIDATE P OWER •Lenin’s NEP -- the policy that restored elements of free enterprise in the countryside, tried to rollback some of the goals of Marxist theory as a way to try to salvage the economy •Lenin’s NEP is an example of compromise in the early stages of the regime with considerable influence G ENDER R ELATIONS If you know anything about Marx or Lenin, you will know that inequalities based on • sex, religion, race, or ethnicity were not genuine divisions between people -- they were symptoms of Bourgeois manipulation •They were artificial divisions that served the purpose of the ruling class and would cease to have importance once there was a proletarian government •Once there was a revolution of the workers, these divisions would cease to have any force because what really matters is material wealth •Many people who were in a weaker position under the Old System expected change in their interest after the revolution •Lenin promised that the revolution would bring absolute equality and sexism would fade away with a successful revolution •He boasted that no state had every done as much for women as the Soviet state had • The revolution depended on women -- women’s labor was essential for a viable economy, many women fought in the wars •Alexandra Kollantai -- she shared the goals of the Bolshevik revolution, abolition of private property, creation of worker’s state; but she also envisaged a revolution in gender relations •In the first days of the new government, some important measures in this respect were passed • Marriage was transformed from a religion to a civil act • Divorce was made readily available to either men or women • Abortion was permitted • All Russian adults were required to work outside the home POLARIZATION, CONSOLIDATION, AND THE DYNAMICS OF EXTREME VIOLENCE: THE SOVIET UNION UNDER STALIN • The idea of putting women into the workforce was very important to the success of the revolution •Also there were measures to make the lives of mothers easier -- notions of prenatal care, better medical care, communal daycares • Such things were supposed to take the drudgeries of housework and child care and some how lift that burden from women •She hoped for a sexual revolution -- this didn’t go very far •This idea of the fundamental change in gender relations was terrifying to many people •Not surprising, in the consolidation of power many of these advancements were rolled back • Lenin fought to maintain these advances •Soviet leaders declared feminist leaders a Bourgeois invention -- and denied that equality was possible in a revolutionary state T HE E MERGENCE OF STALIN •1922 -- Lenin suffered a stroke •In the last few years of his life, he turned important decision-making powers over to Joseph Stalin, the secretary general of the central committee of the Communist party as of 1922 •By the time of Lenin’s death (1924) Stalin had managed to maneuver himself into the position as Lenin’s successor -- took him 5 years to really consolidate power, to establish himself as the absolute dominant personality in the Soviet Communist system •In the process, he pushed aside Trotsky and others •Late 1920s he was able to begin the Second Revolution -- turning back some of the compromises that had been made for the sake of stabilization in the 1920s and pushing forward to institute a more aggressive communist agenda FIVE YEAR P LANS •First Five Year
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