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The Russian Revolution. Unlikely revolution?. Marx’s theory of revolution. Revolution as the product of class struggle State is the instrument of the ruling class Revolution to occur at the highest phases of capitalism

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The russian revolution l.jpg

The Russian Revolution

Unlikely revolution?


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Marx’s theory of revolution

  • Revolution as the product of class struggle

  • State is the instrument of the ruling class

  • Revolution to occur at the highest phases of capitalism

    • Polarization between owners of property – bourgeoisie and a proletariat (underclass), increasingly conscious of its exploitation

    • Proletariat seizes power, violently or otherwise, uses its control of the state to establish socialism and create eventual conditions for communism


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Lenin’s modification

  • Revolution in a backward country can serve as a catalyst for revolution elsewhere

  • Analogy: Chain breaks at its weakest link

  • Revolution does not depend on inevitable class consciousness

  • Instead, can be brought about by a small conspiratorial organization – a vanguard party


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The situation in Russia

  • Capitalism at its incipient rather than advanced stages

    • Country more agrarian than industrial

    • Peasantry barely removed from feudalism

    • Industrial working class only in certain cities such as Petrograd (St. Petersburg)


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Bases for revolution in Russia

  • Tsarist regime thoroughly autocratic

  • Minimal concessions made – then reversed – to allow participation of newer classes or groups

  • Russia exhausted by participation in war

  • Prosecution of war increasingly erratic


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Events

  • February 1917 Revolution

    • Tsar overthrown, Provisional Government established

    • Provisional government tries to continue war

    • Troops rebel, power shifts to Soviets (councils) in different cities

    • Bolsheviks gain ascendancy over other groups

  • Bolsheviks seize power in October 1917


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Problems confronting the new regime

  • Establishing control

  • What to do about the war

  • How to proceed with the revolution


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Solutions

  • Sue for peace

    • Accept Brest-Litovsk Treaty, including ceding substantial territory to Germany

  • Fight civil war against

    • Other socialist parties

    • White Russian forces – rump of nobility

    • Neighbouring countries (over borders)

    • Allied armies

  • Suspend Constituent Assembly, elected in 1918

  • Implement ‘war communism’ – seize food, material needed for war effort

  • Consolidate power circa 1920


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The revolutionary project

  • What to do when revolution elsewhere fails to materialize as expected?

  • Options:

    • Continue to promote world revolution?

    • Try to build socialism in one country?


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Lenin’s interim solution:

  • New Economic Policy (NEP) -- a temporary reversion to capitalism (one step backward, two steps forward) in order to get the economy going again (1921-28)

  • Ultimate direction: determined by Lenin’s impairment (1922) and death, 1924, and Stalin’s succession to power


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Stalin’s succession

  • Stalin

    • A lesser figure in Bolshevik hierarchy

    • However, as general secretary of the Communist Party, well placed

    • Uses control of the administrative apparatus to advance supporters

  • 1925: Moves against left --Trotsky, Kamenev, Zinoviev in defense of NEP

  • 1927/28: Moves against Bukharin and moderates to promote socialism in one country


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Socialism in one country

  • Use of party and state apparatus, including terror, in order to industrialize USSR, lay the conditions for socialism and communism

    • Via series of five year plans

  • Justification

    • Bourgeoisie in Russia had failed to industrialize the country and establish the conditions for socialism

    • Therefore the party and state would do it instead


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Consequences

  • Agriculture collectivized, opponents liquidated

  • Russia industrialized

  • Decline in individual consumption

  • Stalin uses purges (1930s) in order to consolidate power

  • USSR substantially isolated from other countries


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