From Lenin to Stalin Kevin J. Benoy
Bolshevik Victory? • Bolshevik Russia emerged from the long years of WW1 and the Civil War exhausted. • Losses in human live were staggering and, because of conditions of the time, impossible to calculate accurately. • They included not only those killed in battle, but executed hostages and victims of famine.
Bolshevik Victory? • Furthermore, there were those who left Russia for ever: • Men and camp followers of the defeated White armies. • Those who left with the blessing of the Bolsheviks. • Those who left without their blessing, seeking a better life in the capitalist West.
Bolshevik Victory? • In addition to the loss of life, there was the complete dislocation of industry and agriculture. • It was by no means sure that the regime would survive.
War Communism • To fight the Civil War, the Bolsheviks had imposed War Communism, placing civilians under military discipline. • Food and housing could be taken away if a worker did not produce. • Indiscipline could result in execution.
War Communism • Not only were civilians treated as if they were soldiers. • The 5.5 million man Red Army was put to industrial work when need be – building roads and railroads, cutting firewood, and the like. Desertion was common. • Civilians and soldiers alike did as little as possible without provoking punishment.
The Workers’ Opposition • By the end of the Civil War, War Communism was collapsing. • The goal of building a socialist economy was running into opposition that slogans alone could not combat: • A Workers’ Opposition was forming of workers and even some Bolshevik leaders – to the embarrassment of the so-called Proletarian Government. • Lenin claimed he was in favour of greater worker control – just not yet. Madame Kollontai – leading figure in the Bolshevik Worker’s Opposition
Lenin Compromises • As early as 1921, Lenin recognized that some compromises with non-Bolshevik elements would have to be made. • Socialism in Russia could be built only if: • Similar revolutions happened in surrounding capitalist countries. • Or the support of the peasants was secured through concessions. • Lenin had to allow the latter. • War Communism was abandoned after leading to one of the great disasters of the 20th century – the Great Volga Famine – which killed up to 10 million.
The New Economic Policy • In 1921, Lenin adopted the NEP. • Historians regard this as a tactical retreat – a sort of peasant Brest-Litovsk. • Food was essential for national survival. • The 1916 grain harvest was 74 million tons; in 1919 it was 30 million and dropping. • Farmers would not produce when the fruit of their labour was confiscated. Grain confiscation by Bolshevik authorities
The New Economic Policy • Lenin’s plan called for the reintroduction of a limited market economy. • Peasants paid a tax in the form of what they produced and the rest could be sold freely. • In 1922 peasants won the right to choose whatever land tenure they preferred – individual, communal or other.
New Economic Policy • Small businesses also gained some freedom. • The commanding heights of the economy remained in government hands – large businesses, banks, railways and infrastructure. • Entrepreneurs could manage small businesses, hire workers and buy and sell goods as they pleased.
The New Economic Policy • Nepmen were regarded suspiciously by government authorities and also by the public at large who resented their prosperity and lifestyles.
The New Economic Policy • Even unions were given greater freedom – gaining the right to strike against Nepmen and state enterprises. • In the case of the latter, they were reminded that they were really striking against themselves, since this was a proletarian state.
The New Economic Policy • The NEP worked. • The economy strengthened. • Lenin, who once said that “in the future gold would be used to construct public lavatories in the streets of the great cities of the world,” now acknowledged that convention economics would have to be followed – at least temporarily. • Even state farms and industries were called upon to make profits.
The New Economic Pllicy • By 1923-24 many felt the NEP would lead to a permanent change in direction away from Marxist central planning.
The New Economic Policy • Experimentation would be allowed in other areas too. • Madame Kollontai’s notions of free love and the end of conventional families was popular with some intellectuals – though Lenin and his wife, Krupskaya, held rather Victorian prudish values.
The New Economic Policy • The early 1920s was also a period of radical experimentation in art. • Lenin saw only art as something that could be substituted for religion. • Soviet film was also breaking new ground with directors like Sergei Eisenstein.
Foreign Relations • Russia was isolated after the revolution and civil war. • It refused to pay pre-war debts so capitalist countries refused to deal with it. • Only humanitarian aid came from the West during the Great Famine.
Foreign Relations • The Bolsheviks encouraged revolutions elsewhere – but all failed. • Short lived communist governments ruled briefly in Bavaria and Hungary. • All were put down, with violence.
Foreign Relations • The Soviets were desperate to break out of isolation. • The breakthrough came in 1922 at Rapallo. • Germany and the Soviet Union were rebuffed when they attempted to join the Western international conference at Genoa. France would not allow them to do so. • The two outcasts sat down together instead.
The Rapallo Agreement • The deal brought two outcast countries together: • The Soviets cancelled war claims against Germany. • Germany cancelled Tsarist debts to them on condition that the Soviets pay no other government debts. • Both countries developed commercial and military contacts. This allowed Germany to train soldiers and develop weapon systems far from prying Western eyes – violating the Treaty of Versailles.. In return, the Soviets acquired new technology. • The military side of the treaty remained in effect until 1934.
Politics in Lenin’s Soviet Union • Economic freedom was not matched by political freedom. • The Kadet party was declared illegal in 1917. • Menshevik leaders were encouraged to leave the USSR in 1921. • In 1922 there were public trials of SR leaders. • After 1922 there was no significant non-communist opposition in the country.
Politics in Lenin’s Soviet Union • The political struggle turned inward – within the Bolshevik Party. • There had always been internal differences – with factions like the Left Communists (led by Bukharin) or the Workers’ Opposition (headed by Shliapnikov and Kollontai). • At the 10th Party Congress (the one where the NEP was adopted), Lenin attacked critical elements in the Party
Politics in Lenin’s Soviet Union • Lenin said: “We are going to put an end to opposition now, to put a lid on it; we have had enough of oppositions.” • The Congress “dissolved” all oppositions and in a secret resolution, the Central Committee was given the power to expel party members if they formed opposition groups.
Politics in Lenin’s Soviet Union • In 1921 a the Party was purged. • 200,000 members were thrown out. • In 1922 the old Cheka (secret police) was replaced with the more efficient GPU (GosudarstvennoePoliticheskoeUpravlenie or State Political Administration), which could arrest Party members, which the Cheka could not. Felix Dzerzhynsky – Cheka and GPU Head
Politics in Lenin’s Soviet Union • Also in the same year, Stalin was established as Party Secretary – to use his organizational skills to streamline the Party. • He did this by introducing an efficient filing system. • “The Grey Blur” gained significant power because of the information that he held on all Party Members. • Furthermore, he was in a position to promote men loyal to himself.
Politics in Lenin’s Soviet Union • Just after the 11th Party Congress in 1922, Lenin suffered a stroke. • The consequences were huge as it was clear that he would not recover. • The struggle for succession began. • The chief candidates appeared to be: Trotsky, Bukharin, Kamenev, Zinoviev and Stalin.
Successors - Trotsky • The most brilliant potential successor, Trotsky had a high opinion of himself, which annoyed others. • He was a late convert to Bolshevism, so many in the party distrusted him. • He was also indecisive in the factional struggle that followed Lenin’s stroke. • He felt bound by the 1921 ban on factionalism.
Successors - Bukharin • Considered a “Left Communist” because of his opposition to the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, he turned significantly to the right during the NEP period, urging the peasants to “enrich yourselves.” • He came up with the basis of Stalin’s notion that it would be possible to build Socialism in one country – though “at a snail’s pace.” • He was the Party’s chief theoretician during the 1920s and early 1930s.
Successors – Kamenev & Zinoviev • Both were tremendously influential in the Party. • After Lenin’s stroke, they worked with Stalin, ruling as a triumvirate – though both regarded Stalin as a junior partner. • They both regarded Trotsky as their chief opponent.
Successors - Stalin • Stalin was a Georgian who turned to Marxism after studying for a career in the Georgian Orthodox church. • After being expelled he turned to the life of a professional revolutionary. • His ethnic origins and skill at petty expropriations (bank robbery) made him a valuable asset to the Bolsheviks.
Successors - Stalin • He had a justified reputation for toughness. • During the Civil War he served as Commissar for Minorities and he led Bolshevik forces on the Volga Front. • He was a strong organizer – and for this was given the job of General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Party. • Using his position, he quietly inserted his supporters into key positions.
Lenin’s Political Will • Before he died, Lenin dictated a will that outlined political not private wishes. In it, he pointed out strengths and weaknesses of his potential successors. • While he lived, his will was known only to Krupskaya (his wife) and his secretaries. • In it, he pointed out that no single person had all of the needed attributes to rule alone.
Lenin’s Political Will • Stalin and Trotsky were described as the “two most able leaders of the present Central Committee.” • He went on to call Trotsky the more able of the two, but he criticized him for being too self-confident and too attracted to the administrative side of affairs. • Stalin, he said, concentrated too much power in his hands and was regarded as not using that power with “sufficient caution.”
Lenin’s Political Will • Later, Lenin added a postscript, saying that Stalin “is too rude, and this fault...becomes unbearable in the office of General Secretary. Therefore I propose to the comrades to find a way to remove Stalin from that position and appoint it to another man...more patient, more loyal, more polite and more attentive to comrades....” • Lenin even began to attack Stalin publicly, preparing to break his stranglehold on the Party at the 1923 Congress, but his third stroke made this impossible. Lenin never recovered.
Stalin’s Victory • During the 1920s Stalin carefully outflanked his opponents, allying first with one group, then another, to defeat each in turn. • First Trotsky was pushed into the background. He was removed from the War Secretariat, eliminating his power base – the Red Army. • He might have resisted, but chose not to. • His loyalty to the Party came first.
Stalin’s Victory • Next Stalin found new allies to eliminate Kamenev and Zinoviev. • Bukharin and the Party’s “right” assisted. • Both men were humiliated. • Stalin followed this up with another attack on Trotsky – expelling him from the Party.
Stalin’s Victory • Finally, Stalin turned on Bukharin. • By 1930, his victory over the “rightist” elements in the Party was more or less complete. • The continuing campaign against Trotsky resulted in his expulsion from the USSR in 1929. • Stalin now ruled alone.