Russian Revolution of 1917, Communism, Cold War


     The Russian army was the largest in Europe, it had defeated Napoleon, but it was poorly trained, undersupplied, inadequately equipped, and unprepared.  Peasant soldiers in the Russian armies lost their will to fight and began to desert.  The tzar had to deal with domestic discontent and internal resistance.  There was a militant labor movement and a rebellious urban population.  City dwellers coped with inflation and agrarian shortages of food, grains, and fuel.

      In the Revolution of 1905, Czar Nicholas II's priest, Father Gapon led a protest march of tens of thousands of workers over the conditions in St. Petersburg.  On January 22, 1905 troops fired on the crowd, killing hundreds on "Bloody Sunday."  Worker strikes and feudal peasant uprisings called for change.  The czar promised reform and a Duma to represent all classes.  A Duma (parliament) was elected that was boycotted by the Marxists, who urged revolution.  Rasputin, "the mad monk," influenced the czar's wife Alexandra by claiming to have cured the czar's only son of hemophilia.  Rasputin was murdered and the czar delayed reform.

     In February, 1917, in Petrograd, now St. Petersburg forces revolted on International Women's Day, February 23.  An organized march of women-workers, mothers, and wives demanded food, fuel, and political reform.  Demonstrations and strikes swept through the country.  At a mass strike, tsar Nicholas II sent in police and military to halt the riot.  60,000 Petrograd troops mutinied and joined the revolt.  Nicholas II  abdicated the throne on March 2.

     After the overthrow of the tsar's autocracy, two centers of power emerged.  The provisional government led by leaders in the Duma (parliament) was composed of middle class liberals.  Kerensky headed the provisional government, distorting the grievances of the lower classes.  The new government system was established under constitutional rule.  It set up a national election for a constituent assembly to grant and secure civil liberties, release political prisoners, and redirect power to local officials.  The other center of power was with the soviets, local councils elected by workers and soldiers.  Soviet councils claimed to be true representatives of the people. 

     Leon Trotsky claimed to be the legitimate political power in Russia.  He pressed for social reform, redistribution of land and negotiated settlement with Germany to get out of the war.  The provisional government refused to desert the allies or concede defeat militarily.  War was unpopular and unsupported.  Many deserted the army.  The transitional, provisionary government was in chaos.

     The Bolsheviks, a majority branch of Russian social democracy movement overthrew the provisional government.  Marxixt leadership of the Russian Social Democrats took revolutionary steps toward socialism.  The Bolsheviks, radical members of the majority, favored a centralized party of active revolutionaries.  Revolution alone would lead directly to a socialist regime.  The Mensheviks, members of the minority, wanted socialism gradually. 

      In the Russian Revolution of 1917, The Bolsheviks revolutionary leadership was Vladamir Ilyich Ulyanov, or Lenin, a member of the middle class, expelled from University for engaging in radical activity, and spent three years as a political prisoner in Siberia.  From 1900-1917 he wrote as an exile in Western Europe.         

     Lenin believed the development of Russian capitalism made socialist revolution possible.  The Bolsheviks needed to organize the new class of industrial workers, to bring revolution.  Factory workers needed party leadership to accomplish the goal of revolution.  Russian revolutionary tradition and Marxism could achieve their goals immediately.  The Bolsheviks demanded an end to the war with Germany and Austria, improvement in working and living conditions for workers, and redistribution of aristocratic land to the peasantry. 

      Lenin condemned imperialist war policies and opposed the bourgeoisie government.  He called for "Peace, Land, and Bread Now" and "All Power to the Soviets," winning Bolshevik support from workers, soldiers, and peasants.  Unemployment, starvation, and chaos in Russia - the Bolsheviks power was rising fast.  Lenin and the Bolsheviks attacked the provisional government and took over the Winter Palace  on October 25, 1917.  They moved against all political competition, beginning with the Soviets, and expelled opposition parties, creating a new Bolsheviks government.

     When the Bolsheviks did not win a majority in the elections, they dispersed the Constituent Assembly by force, and Lenin's Bolsheviks ruled socialist Russia and the Soviet Union as a one party dictatorship.  Peasants took over land they had worked for generations now rightfully theirs.  Bolsheviks redistributed the nobles' land to peasants.  Bolsheviks nationalized banks, and gave workers control of factories.

       Taking Russia out of the war, a separate treaty with Germany was negotiated by Trotsky, and signed at Brest-Litovsk in March, 1918.  The Bolsheviks surrendered Russian agricultural territories of Ukraine, Georgia, Finland, Poland, and the Baltic states.  The treaty ended Russia's role in the fighting, saving the communist regime from certain military defeat by the Germans.

     The Revolution allowed the Germans to win the war on the Eastern Front.  The socialists held power in what many considered a backward country.  The Russian revolution, "the ten days that shook the world," was a political transformation that set up future revolutionary struggles.  The Bolshevik takeover in October, 1917 began revolutionary events in Russia.  Under Lenin's leadership, the Bolsheviks seized internal political power, and withdrew from the war.  This polarized Russian society and set off a civil war.  The enemies of the Bolsheviks, those associated with the ousted tsarist regime, began to attack the new government.  Known collectively as "Whites," the Bolsheviks opponents had the common goal of removing the "Reds" from power.  The Whites military force came from reactionary monarchists, the old nobility, the provisional government, and anarchists, or "Greens" who opposed all centralized state power and joined the Whites. 

     The United States, Great Britain, and Japan threatened intervention.  Outside support for the Whites was no threat to the Bolsheviks, who used the intervention as propaganda claiming the Whites were assisting foreign powers in invading Russia.  The Bolsheviks mistrusted the capitalist world powers which in the Marxist view, naturally opposed the existence of the world's first "socialist" state.

     The Bolsheviks eventually won the civil war, gaining greater support and acceptance from the population, and were better organized for the civil war.  The Bolsheviks quickly mobilized to fight.  Leon Trotsky became the new commisar of war, and his Red Army of 5 million defeated White armies in 1920 and put down the Nationalist uprisings in 1921.  The country suffered one million combat casualties, several million deaths from hunger and disease caused by the civil war, 1-300,000 executions, and permanent hatreds among ethnic minorities engendered by the barbarism of the war that brutalized society under the new Bolshevik regime.

       The civil war shaped Bolshevik economic "socialism."  Taking power in 1917 Lenin expected to create a state capitalist system that resembled successful European wartime economies.  The Bolsheviks took control of large scale industry, small-scale private economic activity, banking and all major capital and let agriculture continue.  The civil war pushed them toward a radical wartime economy known as "war communism."  The Bolsheviks requisitioned grain from the peasantry, made private trade in consumer goods and "speculation" illegal, militarized production facilities, and abolished money.  These measures were responses to economic conditions beyond control.

     Radical Bolsheviks believed war communism would replace the capitalist system that collapsed in 1917.  Though war communism lasted during the civil war, the war devastated Russian industry and emptied cities' populations in Moscow and Kiev.  The masses of urban workers supporting the Bolshevik revolution employed in major industries diminished, leaving fewer workers remaining on the job.  Industrial ouput fell.  War communism was devastating to agriculture.  Peasants seized and redistributed noble lands and held small plots of land under twenty acres.  Grain requisitioning and outlawing all private trade in grain brought famine in 1921 that claimed 5 million lives.

     Urban workers and soldiers grew discontented with the Bolsheviks.  The promise of socialism and workers control turned out a military dictatorship.  Strikes and protests broke out in 1920, but the Bolsheviks subdued the "popular revolts."   The Bolsheviks would not tolerate and crushed any internal dissent.

     The Bolsheviks abandoned war communism due to an economic and political war-ravaged economy.  In 1921, the New Economic Policy, (NEP) reverted back to state capitalism after the revolution.  The state continued to own all major industry and monetary concerns.  Lenin called it the "commanding heights" of the economic system.  People were allowed to own private property, trade freely, and farm their land for their own benefit.  Fixed taxes were imposed on the peasantry, and what peasants grew beyond the tax requirement was theirs.

     Nikolai Bukharin was a Marxist who argued for taxing private peasant economic activity to industrialize the USSR.  Peasants were encouraged to "enrich themselves" so that their taxes could support urban industrialization and the working class.  To Lenin the NEP was "one step backward in order to take two steps forward."  The NEP was successful agricultural recovery.  1924 harvests were prosperous in the "golden age of the Russian peasantry."

      Land was redivided to level wealth between rich and poor.  Traditional countryside peasant communes produced enough grain to feed the country using primitive farming methods.  Manufactured goods had to be produced cheaply enough to benefit urban markets.  Peasants traded grain at market and kept their excess grain, their livestock, and their illegal moonshine stills. Hence, there were shortages in grain deliveries to cities.

      Joseph Stalin replaced Lenin as the leader of the USSR and became one of the most notorious dictators of all time.  Stalin's political success was in party conflicts.  A program of social and economic transformation began designed to modernize the nation.  The "revolution from above" was the most rapid social economic transformation to modernization in any nation.

      Stalin was the undisputed dictator of the USSR.  His real name was Ioseph Jughashvili, a Bolshevik from the Caucasus nation of Georgia.  Rejecting the priesthood, he participated in revolutionary activity and spent years in Siberian exile before the Russian Revolution.  He was a Bolshevik party member during the Russian Revolution.  Stalin was a master political strategist at internal party politics after Lenin's death in 1924.  He sidelined his Bolshevik party opponents, Trotsky and Bukharin, who supported the Leninist principle of collective leadership within the top ruling circle, by isolating and expelling them successively.

     Prompted by fears of falling behind the West and another world war, Stalin's 1927 plan was to step up and increase the pace of industrialization.  He began forced industrialization and total collectivization of agriculture. In 1928 Stalin ordered officials to begin requisitioning grains in the Urals and Siberia.  He soon applied the revival of war communism to the entire country.  In 1929 he announced complete collectivization.  Peasants gave up private farmlands and joined collective farms, supported by the state, where peasants worked as employees. 

     Large scale rebellions required military intervention and artillery.  Peasants resisted forced collectivization by slaughtering their livestock instead of turning it over to the farms.  Stalin launched an attack on kulaks, well to do farmers, meaning "tight-fisted -ones."  Kulaks were not any better off than their neighbors, and the term was used for those hostile to collectivization.

     1.5 million peasants were uprooted, their property confiscated, and resettled to inhospitable reaches of the Soviet east and north or  to poor farmland.  Their land and posessions were distributed to collective farms or to local officials bent on the "liquidation process of kulaks as a class."  Being forced into collective farms or the exile of productive members of society didn't produce more food.  Famine spread senselessly across the southern region, the most productive farming region in Russia.  The only famine in modern times to occur without natural causes cost 3 to 5 million lives.  Famine stricken regions were sealed off and allowed people to starve, while the Bolsheviks had grain reserves in other parts of the country that were sold overseas for currency and stockpiled in case of war.  Resistance to Soviet power never happened again, yet the state was forced to dispense small private lots o! ! f land to peasant families that provided 50% of the nation's crops from a small fraction of the land.

     Collectivization provided resources for Stalin's "revolution from above:"  a rapid campaign of forced industrialization,  The first Five Year Plan 1928-1932, called for industrialization at one of the most stunning rates of economic growth in the modern world.  Industrial output and the rate of growth increased greatly at the time of the great economic depression of 1929 in the west  The Bolsheviks built new industries in new cities.  Steel producing factory towns rivaled anything the West had built.  The Industrialization drive transformed the nation's urbanized landscape and population.

      The cities of Moscow and Leningrad doubled in size in the early 1930's, and new cities sprang up across Russia.  The urban population grew from 25 to 56 million as the USSR became an urban, industrial society.  Rapid industrialization projects were carried out with prison labor in the timber and mining industries.  The labor camp system, the gulag, became central to the Stalinist economic system.  People were arrested and sent to incarceratiion camps.  An army of prisoners were used on dangerous industrialization work.  The Moscow-White Seacanal  was constructed without the use of machinery and dug by hand.  During construction many lost their lives.  It was bombed in WWII.

      Heavy industry was favored over light industry and quantity outdid quality.  Stalin's industrialization drive transformed the USSR from an agrarian nation to a world industrial power in a few years.  The Stalin revolution produced changes.  The working class populating cities consisted of rural peasants mixed with urban culture.  Women entered the urban work force in huge numbers in the 1930's.  1920's radical modernism was replaced by "socialist realism," socialism in art.  Bolshevik activists promoted utopian family society to create a new proletariat.  There were state subsidies and support for mothers, but soviet women were forced to carry the "double burden" of family support and wage labor. 

       Stalinist repression in the "Great Terror" of 1937-1938 left a million people dead, and one million and a nalf more in labor camps.  Stalin had a personal dictatorship whereby he eliminated enemies real and imagined of the state.  Aimed at categories of internal enemies of soviet society, former and current political figures were visible victims.  100,000 Bolshevik party members were removed, and sentenced to prison or execution.  Top party officials were denounced, condemned at staged show trials and then shot.  In 1937, 40,000 military officers were arrested and 10,000 shot. 

      Stalin promoted a new, young cadre of officials who owed their careers and lives to Stalin personally.  Ethnic groups were targeted and suspected of cross-border contacts that were a security threat to Stalin.  2-300,000 kulaks, petty criminals and social misfits were arrested and shot.  The Terror was Stalin's dictator power and personal control over social and political life in Russia.  The Terror was a result of Stalin's personal paranoia.  The Stalin revolution reordered politics, economy and society.  Private manufacturing and trade were abolished.  Factories, mines, railroads, and public utilities were owned by the state.  Stores were either government enterprises or cooperatives.  Reform and the national standard of health and education was higher.  Society emerged more industrial, urban and modern.

      Communism is used in an economic and political sense.  It means, economically, the ownership by the state of all the means of production and distribution, and, politically, the dictatorship which permits no free elections of competing parties.  Elections were held in Russia, but only communist candidates were eligible.  

     In the first period of communism, between 1917 and 1921, complete communism was established.  Land was nationalized and given to the people to use, rather than to own.  Businesses and banks were nationalized.  Factories were controlled by soviets.  There was a working class struggle.  The dictatorship of the proletariat had intellectuals, middle class, and believers in free enterprise dictatorially eliminated.  The dictatorship of the workers eliminated all bourgeoisie ideas.  Then the classless society was achieved.

     The second period, 1921-1928, began the NEP or New Economic Policy of a limited capitalism.  The third period, from 1928, started Collective Farms and Industrial modernization 5 year plans.

     The Cold War began at the end of WWII.  Allied powers relations were over issues of power and influence in central and eastern Europe.  After the war, relations became that of mutual distrust and conflict.  The U.S. and Soviet Union rapidly formed the centers of two imperial blocs of influence and rivalry.

     The Soviet Union insisted at wartime negotiations in Yalta and Teheran that it had a claim to control Eastern Europe, acknowledged by Western leaders.  Visiting Moscow in 1944, Churchill and Stalin met and bargained over the spheres of influence and over the fate of free nations.  Stalin mistrusted Western leadership and believed that bargains with the West were worthless. 

      Stalin generated a siege mentality of the authoritarian Soviet regime.  Everyone was a potential threat or enemy of the state.  Stalin's foreign policy was Anti-Western policy.  The Soviets' industrial losses and fears of invasion meant they wanted political, economic, and military control of the Eastern European countries they had liberated from Nazi rule.

      The Soviets were suspicious of their wartime allies, remembering American and British anticommunism between the world wars.  Soviet diplomatic pressure, political infiltration, and military power in Eastern Europe established "people's republics" sympathetic to Russia in country after country.  Communist coalition governments emerged in states where one party took hold of key positions of power.

      Winston Churchill stated "an Iron Curtain had descended across Europe."  Governments dependent on Moscow by 1948 were established in Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Czechoslavakia referred to as the Eastern blocGreece was torn by civil war until 1949, but military aid from Britain and America helped restore the monarchy.  The Soviets crushed a Czech coalition government headed by liberal leaders Benes and Masaryk, a direct challenge to the Yalta free election guarantee.

      In the New Cold War, Germany split into two hostile states:  The Soviet zone became a semi-independent Socialist republic.  The French, English, and American zones formed a liberal capitalist state watched by western nations.  Western allies were merging their territories, passing economic reforms and new currency.  The Soviets retaliated by blockading Berlin, to cut West Berlin off from the rest of the Western zone.

      The "Berlin Airlift" carried supplies to the western zone of the city, breaking the siege.  The two Germanies looked like armed camps.  The United States countered moves of the satellization of Eastern Europe and the Berlin blockade with programs of economic and military aid to Western Europe.  In 1947, President Harry Truman proclaimed the Truman Doctrine, that the Soviet-American conflict was a choice between "two ways of life."  Truman vowed to support "free peoples" resistance to communist infiltration and granted aid to Greece and Turkey.

      The Cold War was waged by the USSR to undermine the west and establish communism worldwide.  Cold War tension developed between the U.S. and Soviet Union after WWII.  The Soviets attempted to expand its influence into Western Europe, and the U.S. "containment" policy was to prevent the spread of westward Soviet influence and expansion. 

     Stalin wanted to incorporate all of Germany into the Communist empire by forcing the allies out of Berlin and made its zone a satellite under its control.  The U.S. authorized active participation abroad to contain Russia within its boundaries.  Europe was an economically devastated target for communist doctrine.  The European Recovery Program (ERP) or Marshall Plan was ready to offer economic aid to revive the European economy.