History 2145A/B Lecture Notes - Propaganda In The Soviet Union, Leninism, Democratic Centralism

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Nov 16/10
Lenin and the Birth of Soviet Totalitarianism
-what happens in October 1917 is the start of the Bolshevik revolution not its end
*-cycles of violence (from last class)- first cycle associated with the Lenin cycle
1917 and Beyond: Building the Soviet State
1) What were the main challenged facing Lenin and the Bolsheviks after October 1917?
2) How did the Bolsheviks consolidate their rule?
3) How did the Civil War contribute to the origins of Soviet totalitarianism?
-the Bolsheviks manage to accomplish control of the capital (Petrograd) in October 1917- this is the
political and economic heart of Russia- even a few days after that they manage to do that in Moscow-
they have control of the few important cities
*-tactical, strategic victory over economic and political capitals- use this to gain control over all of
-many obstacles in the way of the Bolsheviks:
*1) decentralization- collapse of central authority, they won their tactical victory in the center,
but the country is pulling away from the central (capital), they must contain this in some way
2) separatism- geographically disperse, pull away from the center
3) problem of suspicion of authority- mistrust in authority, stop taking orders from the tsar and
military powers
4) anarchy- the country is slipping into this, people don’t believe in government, doing what
they want, loss of law and order, loss of political authority
*-Lenin is the only revolutionary leader who is actually able to succeed- makes his revolution
succeed and stay (until the 1990s)
-“April Theses” in 1917 Lenin promises peace, land and bread but he delivers civil war, famine
and creates an authoritarian state ruled by a single party
-consolidating Bolshevik rule Lenin gave birth to soviet totalitarianism- Thesis for today
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-Mensheviks are socialists but less radical- Bolsheviks have rivals on the ground
-talking about dictatorship of the proletarian- how do you do this? Never been done before
-institutional indeterminacy- means don’t know exactly what your going to do
-Bolsheviks talk about genuine democracy- he doesn’t want a traditional, legitimate democracy- says
he’ll make a government of the Soviets
-government of the Soviets would run right into the Bolsheviks idea of centralization
*-democratic centralism- this is the Bolsheviks idea
*-how do they see Russia as a member of this international community?- they believed they were
the start of a worldwide revolution, thought that what was happening in Russia would sweep across the
world- permanent revolution (starts in one place but has to continue)- Bolsheviks are internationalists-
think it has to spread
-the Bolsheviks wanted their government to act different on the international stage- didn’t want to
look like the old tsar
-questions in the west are nervous of the soviets- question what their true aims are- born in 1917
Trotsky and the Bolsheviks at Brest-Litovsk 1918
-population density in western Russia- closer to the big cities
-national and ethnic minorities- what do you do with them?
Control in
local soviets
controlled by
SRs and
Peasant land
seizures in
Localism vs.
in non-Russian
parts of
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-Marx- nationalism is going to disappear which leads to revolution
-Lenin figures because nationalism will disappear one day we can accommodate national self-
determination- a people ought to be self-governed
-by 1922 the U.S.S.R (Union of Soviet Socialist Republic) is created- socialist republics include
Ukraine, Georgia, Latvia
-created little autonomous nations within the U.S.S.R- correspond to nationalist boundaries-
national languages are not destroyed, protection for ethnic minorities- soviets are supporting this-
creating a national political release
-when the USSR starts to crumble it starts in the nationalist socialist republics
-resentment building among the nationalist republics against Moscow, etc.- Moscow dominating
-short-term consequence- helps Lenin consolidate power, long-term- crumbles republic
The Legacy of 1917: “Civil War, Famine, Authoritarian Rule”
-communal agriculture- people share a piece of land and farm it together, state enterprise-
Lenin is trying to capitalize on peasant seizure of land, collectivize or nationalize land- pleases unrest in
the countryside but still some resistance from Kuleks (landowning peasants, commercially successful)
-1918 there is peasant resistance- how does Lenin deal with this?
Lenin talking to peasants: Promise of Land
-Lenin has a low view of peasants to actually lead a revolution
-first of Lenin’s violence in 1918 is against peasants
Peace, but at a Price: Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, 1918
-Lenin makes treaty with Germans while their allies are still fighting
-Lenin understands that continuing to fight will jeopardize his consolidation of power
-this is the German-Russian treaty that takes the Russians out of WW1- delivering his promise
-treaty is really a defeat for Russia- land loss, loses about 65 million people in this arrangement,
successor states (newly independent)- ex. Poland
-White Russia- haven of forces for the civil war, heart of anti-Bolshevik resistance right after the
Bolshevik revolution
Civil War in Russia, 1918-1920
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