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31 Dec 2010
1. War and revolution in the East, 1917
birth of communist power was seen by Lenin, its founder, as the means by which not only the vast lands and peoples of Russia would be
transformed, but also world; for 7 decades Lenin was revered by half the world as its spiritual guide despite the bitter dissensions among
communist countries as to which was rightful heir; his vision of communism as world force was realized less than 25 years after his death
success of Lenin’s revolution, and the birth and growth of Soviet power, exercised great appeal as well as revulsion
Lenin’s achievement was that he gave concrete expression to the theories of Karl Marx
Russian Revolution appeared at the beginning of the fulfilment of Marx’sscientific” prophecy that capitalist society was heading for its
inevitable collapse and that the “proletariat, the workers hitherto exploited, would take over and expropriate the exploiters
in Germany, where Marx’s teachings had the largest political following, and where a powerful Social Democratic Party emerged, the lot
of the working man was improving, not getting worse as Marx had predicted—collapse of capitalism did not after all seem imminent;
some German socialists asked whether the party should not concentrate on securing practical benefits for the workers and accept the
policy of the majority; this became the policy of the majority of the party
the British Labour movement was clearly taking this direction too
in France the doctrine of industrial and class strife leading to revolution had limited appeal outside the towns
Lenin’s views were so extreme, ran so much counter to the world in which he lived, that the majority of socialists ridiculed him when
they were not accusing him of seeking to divide the socialist movement; those who were not socialists did not take him seriously—his
following, even among Russian socialists right up to the revolution of November 1917, was only a minority one
except for few months in Russia after outbreak of revolution in 1905, Lenin spent years before his return to Russia in April 1917 mainly
as exile in Switzerland, where he developed organisation of his revolutionary party based on his own uncompromising ideology
his faction, which at the Second Party Congress in Brussels and London in 1903 managed to gain a majority, became known as the
“majority or Bolsheviks, and the minority took the name of Mensheviks, although soon the fortunes were reversed and until 1917 the
Mensheviks constituted the majority of the party
Lenin hoped for the defeat of Russia and the exhaustion of the imperialists, then he would turn the war between nations into a civil war
that would end with mass of peoples united in their aim of overthrowing their rulers and establishing the “dictatorship of the proletariat”
Lenin’s view of the war and of the role of the socialists did not persuade even the left wing of the socialists who met in conferences in
Switzerland at Zimmerwald in 1915 and Kienthal in the following year—majority wished to bring the war to a compromise end, with
international friendship and no annexations, and so espoused a pacifist stand
rioting that spontaneously broke out in Petrograd—formerly St. Petersburg—early in March (23 February by Russian dating) 1917 was
not due to the leadership of the socialist exiles—their organisation within the country had suffered severely when early in the war the
tsarist government smashed the strike movement, yet, unrest in Petrograd and Moscow had been growing
revolution in March 1917 succeeded because the garrison troops of the swollen army were not loyal and would not blindly follow the
command of the tsar as they had done in peacetime
for Lenin the mass upheaval taking place in Russia was more than a “bourgeois” revolution—he believed the revolutionary upsurge
would pass beyond the bourgeois to the socialist stage without pause
with the seizure of the Winter Palace, where the provisional government was in session, the virtually bloodless revolution was over
Lenin’s achievement was to solidify Bolshevik power until it embraced the greater part of the former Russian Empire
Lenin had to adapt Marx to fit the fact that the revolution had first succeeded in an overwhelmingly peasant country, but he believed, thus
squaring these facts with Marx’s analysis, that the revolution in backward Russia would not survive without the international socialist
revolution, without the proletarian revolution, especially in neighbouring Germany
peace with Germany gave Lenin and the Bolsheviks a breathing space, and saved the Bolshevik revolution
Lenin still confidently expected the war among the Western nations to turn into the great civil war and victory for the proletariat, but
meanwhile the revolutionary spark had to be kept alive—it was not threatened by anarchy and by civil war from the opponents of the
Bolsheviks, aided by Russia’s former allies, who hoped somehow to bring it back into the war
in succeeding years of war and famine, Russian people were to suffer even more than they had suffered during course of WWI itself, but
at end of period, first communist nation was firmly established in world very different from one imagined by Lenin at time of revolution
2. Soviet Russia: ‘communism in transition’
Soviet leadership, after departure in 1922 of Japanese, last foreign troops on Soviet territory, was able to fashion and create Soviet society
free from outside interferenceAllies had withdrawn; Whites were defeated; Bolshevik armies had established control over Caucasus
region, central Asia, and whole of Siberia during 1920 and 1921
with the end of the civil war, and Russia’s own foreign war with Poland—fighting stopped in October 1920—not only was Soviet
revolutionary power established, but for two decades, until Hitler’s invasion of 1941, the expected concerted capitalist attack did not
materialise—it never in fact materialised as the Soviet Union eventually fought Germany in alliance with capitalist Britain and the US
but the fear that the half-hearted Allied intervention immediately after the revolution was not the end but the precursor of an attempt by
the capitalist world to liquidate the first communist state powerfully influenced the Soviet Union’s foreign relations
imminent danger of foreign intervention was thus as much an illusion of the Soviet leaders in the 1920s as the expectation of communist
revolution spreading in the West which, as late as 1921, the Soviet leadership still believed was the only hope of Russia’s survival
Lenin, whose authority towered above that of his frequently arguing lieutenants, heading a Communist Party which at first was only
small, sought to establish some sort of stable basis on which communism could be built
after June 1918, industrial enterprises were rapidly nationalised and workers and managers subjected to rigid control
as money became virtually valueless with collapse of economy, theorists saw advantage in misfortune: communism might be attained not
gradually but in 1 leap; state industries could now be “purely planned—economy abolished and with it all private enterprise and trade
key problem of war-communist period was how to secure food from the peasants, whose alliance with the urban proletariat Lenin had
declared to be essential to the success of the revolution
value of money had been reduced to almost nothing; factories were not producing goods that could be bartered
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