The Rise Of Communism In Russia (2683 words) Essay

The Rise of Communism in RussiaUnless we accept the claim that Lenin’s coup 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 1980’s? (Luttwak,
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
(Groiler’s Encyclopedia).

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).

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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 Worker’s 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 ?Bolshevik? (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 acomidated 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, 580).

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, 88).

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 the
international upheaval. The separation between the utopian
internationalists and the more practical Russia-oriented people was
already apparent (Pipes, 127).

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
Government’s 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 armstice 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 decicive 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).

Leninused 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. Martin’s 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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