Russian revolution
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RUSSIAN REVOLUTION. BOLSHEVIK CONSOLIDATION OF POWER. “BREAD, LAND, PEACE, AND ALL POWER TO THE SOVIETS”. Population not all converted to Bolshevism in aftermath of revolution revolutionaries bore responsibility of moving revolution forward, and maintaining power for themselves

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Russian revolution



Bread land peace and all power to the soviets


  • Population not all converted to Bolshevism in aftermath of revolution

  • revolutionaries bore responsibility of moving revolution forward, and maintaining power for themselves

  • in French Rev’n had done this through the Reign of Terror

Lenin s plan

Lenin’s plan:

  • October symbolized a Bolshevik triumph

  • Bolsheviks considered the revolution over

  • Lenin considered himself in power

  • Lenin had no use for parliaments, elected or not

Conditions in november 1917

Conditions in November 1917

  • Russian state in a shambles

  • Some Bolsheviks call for election of a Constituent Assembly

  • Lenin compelled to hold elections on Nov. 25, 1917

  • Bolsheviks win 25%, mostly in cities

  • other socialist parties 62%, mostly rural

Russian revolution

  • Lenin maintained that “advanced elements” had voted Bolshevik

  • Assembly met in January 1918 for first & only time

  • Dissolved when Lenin prevented future meetings by issuing the Draft Decree and sending heavily armed guards to prevent members from gathering

  • Members upset, but no public outcry

  • Why: Bolsheviks had acted on public’s desires for bread, land and peace

The period of war communism nov 1917 dec 1920


  • Military events determine main features of period

  • Russia enters into civil war

  • Foreign powers on Russian soil

  • Lenin’s party initiates drive to Bolshevize the population

  • party is renamed “Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks)”

  • captial moved from Petrograd to Moscow

Incipit vita nova

“Incipit vita nova…”

  • Bolsheviks convinced world revolution imminent: Germany--England--US

  • Believed they were model state, and needed to get socialist state established as capitalism imploding

  • focused on Russia, therefore, rather than international affairs

Early reforms

Early reforms:

  • Gov’t took over all businesses w/ 10+ workers

  • Labour compulsory; strikes outlawed!

  • Barter system replaces free market

  • Internal trade made illegal

  • Gov’t commissary had monopoly on foodstuffs

  • Church and state separated

  • Judges replaced by members of local soviets

  • Nine opposition parties liquidated

  • Severe requisitioning introduced: poorer peasants strike out at kulaks

  • Class hatred results in rural uprisings

Establishment of the cheka

Establishment of the CHEKA

  • Lenin saw upheaval as threat to revolution’s security

  • Est. the “All-Russian Commission for fighting counter-Revolution and Sabotage” aka CHEKA

  • Headquartered at Lubyanka St. in Moscow

  • HQ was a prison combined w/offices in charge of administering “state security”

  • Job of the CHEKA was to protect the revolution

  • It moved from targeting individuals to whole segments of society

  • CHEKA was hated and feared by almost everyone

  • Introduced concept of killing people not for actions, but for WHO they were

  • 100’s of families simply disappeared in the Lubyanka

Dealing with the west

Dealing with the West

  • Complicating governance was continued involvement in WWI—would not hold onto power if war continued

  • Negotiated w/ Germany and A-H while hoping for a revolution in Germany

  • Signed Treaty of Brest-Litovsk on Mar. 3, 1918

  • Lost: the Ukraine, Baltic provinces, Finland and other territory; 33% of pop’n; 80% of Iron deposits; 90% of coal

  • Not accepted by many communists—protest resignations occurred

  • Civil War worsened—allies saw treaty as a betrayal

Civil war

Civil War

  • Cossacks and a number of army officers saw Brest-Litovsk as a betrayal; portrayed Bolsheviks as German agents

  • Opposition White Army formed to fight against the Red Army led by Trotsky

  • White Army characterized by insufficient organization, uncoordinated actions, and competing political goals

  • Supported by materials and 100,000 troops sent by Allied governments including the USA, Britain, France, and Japan

  • Fighting lasted 3 years

Impacts of the civil war

Impacts of the Civil War

  • Shaped a suspicious perception of the capitalist world

  • Lenin had to strengthen the dictatorial powers of the Bolsheviks to maintain the state

  • State police used to suppress all opposition

  • Peasantry refused to support the Whites as they restored property to landlords in their areas

  • Due to involvement of foreign troops, Red Army could portray itself as protectors of Russia, throwing off charge of being foreign puppets after Brest-Litovsk

Civil conditions

Civil conditions

  • Famine rampant

  • Infrastructure destroyed resulting in poor sanitation

  • Class hatred rampant

  • Industrial production down to 12.5% of pre-war level

  • Agricultural production fell 30%

  • Hardship = waning support for the new regime

  • Anarchist rebellion broke out in early 1921—not suppressed until mid-1922

  • Kronstadt sailors mutiny in March 1921 calling for “soviets without communists”

  • Lenin feared for future of his revolution

Trotsky s perceptions

Trotsky’s perceptions

  • Trostsky recognized the public was actually opposed to the “dictatorship of the proletariat”

  • Believed the key was education

  • Saw that revolution was not coming in Europe; European gov’ts actively working to root out Bolshevik sympathizers and activists

  • Perceived Russia as an island of revolutionary socialism that could not survive alone

  • Needed to help revolutions happen elsewhere so not alone

Lenin s reaction

Lenin’s reaction

  • Key to saving the revolution was reconstruction, not education

  • Wanted to appease the peasants

  • Without world revolution, outside aid was not coming, so he needed to work with the capitalists to gain resources

New economic policy

New Economic Policy

  • Began the New Economic Policy (NEP) and negotiated the Anglo-Russian trade treaty

  • Under NEP stopped requisitioning entire crops; peasants had to pay heavy tax but could sell their portion of crop to the state or private buyers

  • Rich peasants did well under this system; poorer peasants became a mere hired labourer

  • Lenin himself saw the NEP as a partial return to capitalism

  • 2-3 decades before the peasants would accept collectivized agriculture

  • NEP represents a sort of “Thermidor” (period after the Reign of Terror in the French Rev’n): a return to normalcy after a violent period of revolution

Impacts of the nep

Impacts of the NEP

  • Industrial and agricultural output return to pre-war levels

  • 40% of business privatized by 1924

  • Bitterly disliked by ideological communists

  • Factional dispute emerges w/in the party

  • Right-deviationists—increase private enterprise and fully supported NEP

  • Left-deviationists—end NEP, liquidate those who profited from it, get back to Marxism, and work for world revolution

  • Trotsky joined the left-deviationists: needed to work to make revolution occur elsewhere

The power struggle

The Power Struggle

  • Lenin’s health begins to fail in 1922

  • Dies in January 1924

The candidates

The candidates…

  • Lenin knew that there would be a struggle for power between Trotsky and Stalin

  • Power struggle began in 1922, and lasted until 1928

  • Read Trotsky as able but arrogant

  • Read Stalin as not knowing how to use the power he had accumulated

  • Thoughts on the succession were revealed in his Testament

Lenin s testament

Lenin’s Testament

  • By the stability of the Central Committee, of which I spoke above, I mean measures against a split, as far as such measures can at all be taken. For, of course, the whiteguard in Russkaya Mys (it seems to have been S. S. Oldenburg) was right when, first, in the whiteguards' game against Soviet Russia he banked on a split in our Party, and when, secondly, he banked on grave differences in our Party to cause that split. Our Party relies on two classes and therefore its instability would be possible and its downfall inevitable if there were no agreement between those two classes. In that event, this or that measure, and generally all talk about the stability of our C.C., would be futile. No measures of any kind could prevent a split in such a case. But I hope that this is too remote a future and too improbable an event to talk about.

  • I have in mind stability as a guarantee against a split in the immediate future, and I intend to deal here with a few ideas concerning personal qualities.

Russian revolution

  • I think that from this standpoint, the prime factors in the question of stability are such members of the C.C. as Stalin and Trotsky. I think relations between them make up the greater part of the danger of a split, which could be avoided, and this purpose, in my opinion, would be served, among other things, by increasing the number of C.C. members to 50 or 100.

  • Comrade Stalin, having become Secretary-General, has unlimited authority concentrated in his hands, and I am not sure whether he will always be capable of using that authority with sufficient caution. Comrade Trotsky*, on the other hand, as his struggles against the C.C. on the question of the People's Commissariat for Communications has already proved, is distinguished not only by outstanding ability. He is personally perhaps the most capable man in the present C.C., but he has displayed excessive self-assurance and shown excessive preoccupation with the purely administrative side of the work.

Russian revolution

  • These two qualities of the two outstanding leaders of the present C.C. can inadvertently lead to a split, and if our Party does not take steps to avert this, the split may come unexpectedly.

  • I shall not give any further appraisals of the personal qualities of other members of the C.C. I shall just recall that the October episode with Zinoviev and Kamenev was, of course, no accident, but neither can the blame for it be laid upon them personally, any more than non-Bolshevism can upon Trotsky.

  • Speaking of the young C.C. members, I wish to say a few words about Bukharin and Pyatakov. They are, in my opinion, the most outstanding figures (among the younger ones), and the following must be borne in mind about them: Bukharin is not only a most valuable and major theorist of the Party; he is also rightly considered the favorite of the whole Party, but his theoretical views can be classified as fully Marxist only with the great reserve, for there is something scholastic about him (he has never made a study of dialectics, and, I think, never fully appreciated it).

Russian revolution

  • December 25. As for Pyatakov, he is unquestionably a man of outstanding will and outstanding ability, but shows far too much zeal for administrating and the administrative side of the work to be relied upon in a serious political matter.

  • Both of these remarks, of course, are made only for the present, on the assumption that both these outstanding and devoted Party workers fail to find an occasion to enhance their knowledge and amend their one-sidedness.

  • Lenin, 24 December 1922

  • Stalin is too rude and this defect, although quite tolerable in our midst and in dealing among us Communists, becomes intolerable in a Secretary-General. That is why I suggest the comrades think about a way of removing Stalin from that post and appointing another man in his stead who in all other respects differs from Comrade Stalin in having only one advantage, namely, that of being more tolerant, more loyal, more polite, and more considerate to the comrades, less capricious, etc. This circumstance may appear to be a negligible detail. But I think that from the standpoint of safeguards against a split, and from the standpoint of what I wrote above about the relationship between Stalin and Trotsky, it is not a detail, or it is a detail which can assume decisive importance.

  • Lenin, 25 December 1922

  • [Source: Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 36 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1966), pp. 594-596.]

Trotsky argued for

Trotsky argued for:

  • A more highly trained managerial force in industry

  • Economic planning as an instrument to control social change

  • Mechanization of agriculture and weakening of peasant individualism

  • World revolution necessary for success of Russian socialism

Trotsky s opposition

Trotsky’s opposition

  • Nikolai Bukharin, editor of Pravda, acted as spokesman

  • Believed socialism could be achieved gradually over time

  • Supported the NEP

  • Favoured peasant cooperatives rather than collectivization

  • Eager to cooperate with non-Communist groups in foreign affairs



  • Used Bukharin’s ideas to discredit Trotsky, and then discarded them, took on Trotsky’s policies, and eliminated Bukharin!

  • Stalin was not a theoretical or ideological Communist; he was a quoter not a thinker!

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