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Russia: How did Lenin and the Bolsheviks overcome Opposition, 1918-22?

Terms in this set (19)

- Believed that the war would collapse into a series of civil wars in European countries as the working class fought with the bourgeoisie following the example of the workers' revolution in Russia.
- But the revolutions in other countries failed to materialize. As the army became incapable of fighting on successfully, Trotsky was dispatched to negotiate a peace settlement with Germany at Brest-Litovsk in Dec 1917. Harsh terms, involving loss of territory and people. Trotsky tried to delay negotiations, hoping that revolution would break out in Germany and Austria, but when the Germans grew impatient, he withdrew saying there would be 'neither war nor peace'.
- Lenin believed that peace was essential to ensure survival of the regime. There was no army to fight the Germans and when they began to advance into the Ukraine, Lenin feared that they may move towards Petrograd to remove the Bolsheviks. 'Germany is only pregnant with revolution when we have already given birth to a healthy child. In Russia we must make sure of throttling the bourgeoisie, and for this we need both hands free.' Stalin agreed.
- Bukharin and the Left Communists wanted to turn the war into revolutionary war to encourage a European socialist revolution. Lenin's pleas for separate peace w Germany opposed.
- Germans resumed their advance. In 5 days they progressed 150 miles. Harsher peace terms than before had to be accepted, but only after further debate and Lenin's threat of resignation. Trotsky resigned as Foreign Commissar.
- 3rd March the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed.
- Lenin concentrated on building and consolidating the Bolshevik state. Took charge of the day-to-day business of the Sovnarkom. Big issue was the rapid deterioration of the economy in the spring of 1918. War Communism was the solution, and it began with grain requisitioning, but it broadened to incl a comprehensive range of state controls over the economy. It was popular w the Party ideologically as the rapid rout to socialism.
- Grain Requisitioning: May 1918 a Food-Supplies Dictatorship was set up. Units of Red Guards and soldiers forcibly requisitioned food from the peasants who resisted bitterly.
- Labour Discipline: Discipline brought back to the workplace. Fines for lateness and absenteeism. Internal passports were introduced to stop people fleeing to the countryside. Piece-work rates brought back, along w bonuses and a work book that was needed to get rations.
- Nationalisation of industry: The Decree of Nationalisation in June 1918 brought all industry under state control, administered by the Supreme Council of National Economy, Vesenkha. Workers' committees were replaced by single managers reporting to central authorities. These were often old bourgeois managers now called 'specialists'. It did nothing to increase production.
- Rationing: Class-based system of rationing introduced. Red Army soldiers and labour force given priority. Smaller rations given to civil servants and professional people such as doctors. Smallest rations, barely enough to live on, were given to the burzhooi or middle classes.
- Banning of Private Trade: All private trade and manufacture banned. However, industry was not producing enough consumer goods, so an enormous black market developed, without which most people could not have survived.
- Assassination attempt on Lenin on 30th August 1918 launched the Cheka's Red Terror, intensifying what had already been happening.
- From June onwards, SRs had been arrested in huge numbers, along w anarchists and members of extreme left groups. Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries were excluded from taking part in soviets. Many Kadets were already in prison, others fled to the south.
- Lenin ordered the Tsar, Nicholas, along with his family and servants, to be executed via shooting on 17th July 1918 in Ekaterinburg in the Urals.
- Execution now common. Prisoners in many cities shot. Official records put figure for deaths (via the Cheka) in 1918-20 at 13,000, but in reality it was around 500,000.
- Real purpose of the Terror was to terrify all hostile social groups. Its victims incl large numbers of workers and peasants as well as princes and priests, prositutes, judges, merchants, traders, even children - all guilty of 'bourgeois provocation' or counter-revolution.
- In cities, the Cheka acted indiscriminately. People arrested for being near scenes of 'bourgeois provocation' or because they were acquaintances of suspects. Little central control.
- Particularly active in the countryside, helping requisitioning brigades to collect grain from peasants. Quotas were filled even if this left peasants starving. Little better than theft.
- Peasants resisted in a wave of uprisings and attacked collectors. Bolshevik party officials murdered.
- To house all these dissident workers, peasants and bourgeois saboteurs, the Bolsheviks set up concentration and labour camps, Gulags. Machinery of terror and the police state were created under Lenin, not Stalin.
- Famine, disease and revolt was widespread. 118 separate uprisings throughout Soviet Russia in Feb 1921.
- Soviet economy in ruins. Transport system collapsing. Factories unable to source materials, and most industrial enterprises ceased production. Grain production fallen to disastrously low levels. Famine rampant in the south and 100s died from disease - typhus, cholera, dysentery, influenza epidemic which rage Northern Europe.
- Hostility of peasants to grain requisitioning erupted in series of revolts. Most serious was the Tambov uprising from Aug 1920 to June 1921 led by Alexander Antonov. Poor harvest in 1920 left peasants w no reserves of grain. Reacted violently to requisitioning brigades.
- In cities, the severe winter of 1920-21 brought repeated strikes. 22nd Jan 1921, the bread ration was cut by 1/3 in several cities, incl Moscow and Petrograd. The Cheka had to break up food demonstrations.
- Urban workers particularly angry about the: food shortages, militarized factories ('worse than a tsarist prison camp' where workers could be imprisoned/shot if production targets not reached), the state had manipulated their unions to act as instruments to maintain control of the workers.
- Strikes in Petrograd supported by sailors at nearby Kronstadt naval base who were in contact w workers. March 1921, they mutinied in hope of provoking a general revolt against Bolsheviks. Demanded an end to terror, to dictatorship, to grain requisitioning and to one-party rule.
- Within the party, the Workers' Opposition grew up under Alexander Shlyapnikov and Alexandra Kollontai. They wanted the workers to be given more control of their own affairs and supported complaints about reintroduction of single managers and the militaristic organisation of the workplace. Criticised Trotsky's plan to make the trade unions agencies of the state w union officials appointed by the state.
- Lenin realised that concessions to the peasants and some economic liberalization were essential for regime to survive. Clear that the gov could not continue w War Communism.
- The New Economic Policy was therefore brought in. Many party members saw this policy a betrayal and against Bolshevik Communist ideology. But Bukharin backed him, 'We are making economic concessions to avoid political concessions.' Kronstadt revolt finally persuaded doubters, as long as this was a temporary solution. Demonstrated Lenin's pragmatic flexibility.
Features:
- Grain requisitioning abolished: replaced by 'tax in kind. Peasants had to give a fixed proportion of their grain to the state, but the amount taken was much less than amounts taken by requisitioning. Could sell any surpluses on the open market.
- State control of the commanding heights of the economy: state kept control of large-scale heavy industries like coal, oil and steel. Retained control of transport and the banking system. Industry organized into trusts that had to buy materials and pay their workers from their own budgets. If they failed to manage budgets efficiently, they could not expect the state to bail them out.
- Small businesses reopened: Private ownership of small businesses allowed, profit was allowed. Incl businesses like small workshops and factories that made goods such as shoes, nails and clothes. Lenin realised that peasants would not sell their produce unless there were goods that they wanted on sale.
- Ban on private trade removed: removal of the ban on private trade meant that food and goods could flow more easily between the countryside and the towns. Privately owned shops were reopened. Rationing was abolished and people had to buy food and goods from their own income. The money economy was back.
- Productionism: production at any price. Maximising economic output was the first priority in the conditions of 1918-22, but it also had a vital ideological dimension.
- The Workers' Opposition were defeated and treated with scorn and ridicule by Lenin at the 10th Party Congress.
- 'Ban on Factions' passed and dealt with splits in the Party and restored discipline. Meant that once Party policy had been agreed by the Central Committee everybody had to accept it and not lobby against it. The penalty for factionalism was expulsion from the Party. Very influential in the power struggle, when any accusation of factionalism could be v damaging.
- Concern of insufficiently communist elements of the party. Solution was a chistka (cleansing). May 1918 confined to expulsion of 'idlers, hooligans, adventurers, drunkards and thieves'. About 220,000 members were purged or left the Party in 1921 following a series of cleansings.
- NEP was accompanied by political repression. Mensheviks and SRs were outlawed. 1921, 5,000 Mensheviks were arrested for counter-revolutionary activities. Show trial of Socialist Revolutionaries: 34 of their leaders were condemned as terrorists and 11 executed.
- The Cheka was renamed the GPU (Main Political Administration) in 1922 and grew in importance during the NEP. Arbitrary imprisonment and the death penalty continued to be applied after 1922 as an instrument of social policy. The GPU periodically harassed and arrested Nepmen as speculators and class enemies to show that they were keeping capitalistic tendencies under control.
- Censorship became more systematic. 1922, dozens of outstanding Russian writers and scholars were deported to convince the intelligentsia not to criticise the government. Pre-publication censorship introduced. Books, articles, poems and o/ writings had to be submitted to the Main Administration for Affairs of Literature and Publishing Houses (Glavlit) before they could be published.