The Rise Of Communism In Russia (2269 words) Essay

The Rise of Communism in Russia Unless we accept the claim that Lenin’s coup that gave
birth to an entirely new state, and indeed to a new era in the
history of mankind, we must recognize in today’s Soviet Union
the old empire of the Russians — the only empire that survived
into the mid 1980s (Luttwak, 1).

In their Communist Manifesto of 1848, Karl Marx and
Friedrich Engels applied the term communism to a final stage of
socialism in which all class differences would disappear and
humankind would live in harmony. Marx and Engels claimed to have
discovered a scientific approach to socialism based on the laws
of history. They declared that the course of history was
determined by the clash of opposing forces rooted in the economic
system and the ownership of property. Just as the feudal system
had given way to capitalism, so in time capitalism would give way
to socialism. The class struggle of the future would be between
the bourgeoisie, who were the capitalist employers, and the
proletariat, who were the workers. The struggle would end,
according to Marx, in the socialist revolution and the
attainment of full communism (Groilers Encyclopedia).

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Socialism, of which Marxism-Leninism is a takeoff,
originated in the West. Designed in France and Germany, it was
brought into Russia in the middle of the nineteenth century and
promptly attracted support among the country’s educated, public-
minded elite, who at that time were called intelligentsia (Pipes,
21). After Revolution broke out over Europe in 1848 the modern
working class appeared on the scene as a major historical force.

However, Russia remained out of the changes that Europe was
experiencing. As a socialist movement and inclination, the
Russian Social-Democratic Party continued the traditions of all
the Russian Revolutions of the past, with the goal of conquering
political freedom (Daniels 7).

As early as 1894, when he was twenty-four, Lenin had
become a revolutionary agitator and a convinced Marxist. He
exhibited his new faith and his polemical talents in a diatribe
of that year against the peasant-oriented socialism of the
Populists led by N.K. Mikhiaiovsky (Wren, 3).

While Marxism had been winning adherents among the
Russian revolutionary intelligentsia for more than a decade
previously, a claimed Marxist party was bit organized until
1898. In that year a congress of nine men met at Minsk to
proclaim the establishment of the Russian Social Democratic
Workers Party. The Manifesto issued in the name of the congress
after the police broke it up was drawn up by the economist Peter
Struve, a member of the moderate Legal Marxist group who soon
afterward left the Marxist movement altogether. The manifesto is
indicative of the way Marxism was applied to Russian conditions,
and of the special role for the proletariat (Pipes, 11).

The first true congress of the Russian Social Democratic
workers Party was the Second. It convened in Brussels in the
summer of 1903, but was forced by the interference of the
Belgian authorities to move to London, where the proceedings were
concluded. The Second Congress was the occasion for bitter
wrangling among the representatives of various Russian Marxist
Factions, and ended in a deep split that was mainly caused by
Lenin — his personality, his drive for power in the movement,
and his hard philosophy of the disciplined party organization.

At the close of the congress Lenin commanded a temporary
majority for his faction and seized upon the label 0Bolshevik
(Russian for Majority), while his opponents who inclined to the
soft or more democratic position became known as the Mensheviks
or minority(Daniels, 19).

Though born only in 1879, Trotsky had gained a leading
place among the Russian Social-Democrats by the time of the
Second party Congress in 1903. He represented ultra-radical
sentiment that could not reconcile itself to Lenin’s stress on
the party organization. Trotsky stayed with the Menshevik
faction until he joined Lenin in 1917. From that point on, he
accommodated himself in large measure to Lenin’s philosophy of
party dictatorship, but his reservations came to the surface
again in the years after his fall from power (Stoessinger, 13).

In the months after the Second Congress of the Social
Democratic Party Lenin lost his majority and began organizing a
rebellious group of Bolsheviks. This was to be in opposition of
the new majority of the congress, the Menshiviks, led by
Trotsky. Twenty-two Bolsheviks, including Lenin, met in Geneva
in August of 1904 to promote the idea of the highly disciplined
party and to urge the reorganization of the whole Social-
Democratic movement on Leninist lines (Stoessinger, 33).

The differences between Lenin and the Bogdanov group of
revolutionary romantics came to its peak in 1909. Lenin
denounced the otzovists, also known as the recallists, who
wanted to recall the Bolshevik deputies in the Duma, and the
ultimatists who demanded that the deputies take a more radical
stand — both for their philosophical vagaries which he rejected
as idealism, and for the utopian purism of their refusal to take
tactical advantage of the Duma. The real issue was Lenin’s
control of the faction and the enforcement of his brand of
Marxist orthodoxy. Lenin demonstrated his grip of the Bolshevik
faction at a meeting in Paris of the editors of the Bolsheviks
factional paper, which had become the headquarters of the
faction. Bogdanov and his followers were expelled from the
Bolshevik faction, though they remained within the Social-
Democratic fold (Wren, 95).

On March 8 of 1917 a severe food shortage cause riots in
Petrograd. The crowds demanded food and the step down of Tsar.

When the troops were called in to disperse the crowds, they
refused to fire their weapons and joined in the rioting. The
army generals reported that it would be pointless to send in any
more troops, because they would only join in with the other
rioters. The frustrated tsar responded by stepping down from
power, ending the 300-year-old Romanov dynasty (Farah, 580).

With the tsar out of power, a new provisional government
took over made up of middle-class Duma representatives. Also
rising to power was a rival government called the Petrograd
Soviet of workers and Soldiers Deputies consisting of workers
and peasants of socialist and revolutionary groups. Other
soviets formed in towns and villages all across the country.

All of the soviets worked to push a three-point program which
called for an immediate peas, the transfer of land to peasants,
and control of factories to workers. But the provisional
government stood in conflict with the other smaller governments
and the hardships of war hit the country. The provisional
government was so busy fighting the war that they neglected the
social problems it faced, losing much needed support (Farah,

The Bolsheviks in Russia were confused and divided about
how to regard the Provisional Government, but most of them,
including Stalin, were inclined to accept it for the time being
on condition that it work for an end to the war. When Lenin
reached Russia in April after his famous sealed car trip across
Germany, he quickly denounced his Bolshevik colleagues for
failing to take a sufficiently revolutionary stand (Daniels,

In August of 1917, while Lenin was in hiding and the
party had been basically outlawed by the Provisional Government,
the Bolsheviks managed to hold their first party congress since
1907 regardless. The most significant part of the debate turned
on the possibility for immediate revolutionary action in Russia
and the relation of this to theinternational upheaval. The
separation between the utopian internationalists and the more
practical Russia-oriented people was already apparent (Pipes,

The Bolsheviks hope of seizing power was hardly secret.

Bold refusal of the provisional Government was one of their
major ideals.Three weeks before the revolt they decided to
stage a demonstrative walkout from the advisory assembly. When
the walkout was staged, Trotsky denounced the Provisional
Government for its alleged counterrevolutionary objectives and
called on the people of Russia to support the Bolsheviks
(Daniels, 110).

On October 10 of 1917, Lenin made the decision to take
power. He came secretly to Petrograd to try and disperse any
hesitancies the Bolshevik leadership had over his demand for
armed revolt. Against the opposition of two of Lenin’s long-
time lieutenants, Zinovieiv and Kamenev, the Central Committee
accepted Lenin’s resolution which formally instructed the party
organizations to prepare for the seizure of power.

Finally, of October 25 the Bolshevik revolution took
place to overthrow the provisional government. They did so
through the agency of the Military-Revolutionary Committee of
the Petrograd Soviet. They forcibly overthrew the provisional
government by taking over all of the government buildings, such
as the post office, and big corporations, such as the power
companies, the shipyard, the telephone company. The endorsement
of the coup was secured from the Second All-Russian Congress of
Soviets, which was concurrently in session. This was known as
the October revolution (Luttwak, 74) Through this, control of
Russia was shifted to Lenin and the Bolsheviks.

IN a quick series of decrees, the new soviet government
instituted a number of sweeping reforms, some long overdue and
some quite revolutionary. They ranged from democratic reforms,
such as the disestablishment of the church and equality for the
national minorities, to the recognition of the peasants land
seizures and to openly socialist steps such as the
nationalization of banks. The Provisional Governments
commitment to the war effort was denounced. Four decrees were
put into action. The first four from the Bolshevik Revolutionary
Legislation were a decree on peace, a decree on land, a decree on
the suppression of hostile newspapers, and a declaration of the
rights of the peoples of Russia (Stossenger, 130).

By early 1918 the Bolshevik critics individually made
their peace with Lenin, and were accepted back into the party and
governmental leadership. At the same time, the Left and Soviet
administration thus acquired the exclusively Communist character
which it has had ever since. The Left SR’s like the right SR’s
and the Mensheviks, continued to function in the soviets as a
more or less legal opposition until the outbreak of large-scale
civil war in the middle of 1918. At that point the opposition
parties took positions which were either equally vocal or openly
anti-Bolshevik, and one after another, they were suppressed.

The Eastern Front had been relatively quiet during 1917,
and shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution a temporary armistice
was agreed upon. Peace negotiations were then begun at the
Polish town of Brest-Litovsk, behind the German lines. In
agreement with their earlier anti-imperialist line, the Bolshevik
negotiators, headed by Trotsky, used the talks as a discussion
for revolutionary propaganda, while most of the party expected
the eventual return of war in the name of revolution. Lenin
startled his followers in January of 1918 by explicitly
demanding that the Soviet republic meet the German conditions
and conclude a formal peace in order to win what he regarded as
an indispensable breathing spell, instead of shallowly risking
the future of the revolution (Daniels, 135).

Trotsky resigned as Foreign Commissar during the Brest-
Litovsk crisis, but he was immediately appointed Commissar of
Military Affairs and entrusted with the creation of a new Red
Army to replace the old Russian army which had dissolved during
the revolution. Many Communists wanted to new military force to
be built up on strictly revolutionary principles, with guerrilla
tactics, the election of officers, and the abolition of
traditional discipline. Trotsky set himself emphatically against
this attitude and demanded an army organized in the conventional
way and employing military specialists — experienced officers
from the old army.

Hostilities between the Communists and the Whites, who
were the groups opposed to the Bolsheviks, reached a decisive
climax in 1919.Intervention by the allied powers on the side
of the Whites almost brought them victory. Facing the most
serious White threat led by General Denikin in Southern Russia,
Lenin appealed to his followers for a supreme effort, and
threatened ruthless repression of any opposition behind the
lines. By early 1920 the principal White forces were defeated
(Wren, 151). For three years the rivalry went on with the
Whites capturing areas and killing anyone suspected of Communist
practices. Even though the Whites had more soldiers in their
army, they were not nearly as organized nor as efficient as the
Reds, and therefore were unable to rise up (Farah, 582).

Police action by the Bolsheviks to combat political
opposition commenced with the creation of the Cheka. Under the
direction of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the Cheka became the prototype
of totalitarian secret police systems, enjoying at critical
times the right the right of unlimited arrest and summary
execution of suspects and hostages. The principle of such
police surveillance over the political leanings of the Soviet
population has remained in effect ever since, despite the varying
intensity of repression and the organizational changes of the
police — from Cheka to GPU (The State Political Administration)
to NKVD (people’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs) to MVD
(Ministry of Internal Affairs) to the now well-known KGB
(Committee for State Security) (Pipes, 140).

Lenin used his secret police in his plans to use terror
to achieve his goals and as a political weapon against his
enemies. Anyone opposed to the communist state was arrested.

Many socialists who had backed Lenin’s revolution at first now
had second thoughts. To escape punishment, they fled. By 1921
Lenin had strengthened his control and the White armies and
their allies had been defeated (Farah, 582).

Communism had now been established and Russia had become
a socialist country. Russia was also given a new name: The Union
of Soviet Socialist Republics. This in theory meant that the
means of production was in the hands of the state. The state,
in turn, would build the future, classless society. But still,
the power was in the hands of the party (Farah, 583). The next
decade was ruled by a collective dictatorship of the top party
leaders. At the top level individuals still spoke for
themselves, and considerable freedom for factional controversy
remained despite the principles of unity laid down in 1921.

Works Cited
Daniels, Robert V., A Documentary History of Communism. New York:
Random House Publishing, 1960.

Farah, Mounir, The Human Experience. Columbus: Bell & Howess Co.,

Luttwak, Edward N., The Grand Strategy of the Soviet Union. New
York: St. Martins Press, 1983.

Pipes, Richard, Survival is Not Enough. New York: S&S Publishing,

Stoessinger, John G., Nations in Darkness. Boston: Howard Books,

Wren, Christopher S., The End of the Line. San Francisco:
Blackhawk Publishing, 1988.


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